They farm people, don’t they…
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? was a 1969 movie set in the Great Depression. The IMDB website introduces with this: “The lives of a disparate group of contestants intertwine in an inhumanely gruelling dance marathon.” In the end the Jane Fonda character asks her dance partner to shoot her. Which he does mercifully, with a bullet to the brain.
Thankfully, we’re in neither a great depression nor, hopefully, in a real life version of the movie. But in actual fact we’ve been living in an extended recession since the 1970s—a 40-year run of economic stagnation that has seen wages flatline while productivity keeps rising, driving profits to the top .01% and creating a vastly more unequal society. Every dollar we earn buys less every year.
We’ve also become a society of debt slaves. This isn’t news. It takes money to buy big ticket items like housing and cars. To be able to buy a home in, say, Vancouver, you’ll need to spend up to 10 times your annual family income to buy a home. Translation: a $100,000 salary gets you a $1,000,000 starter home. Low interest mortgages and loans make it possible. And that new pickup can run over $70k. but if you can make the low biweekly payment, you can slide behind the wheel.
And just to complete the perfect circle, in order to land a job in an ever-more-competitive and ever-diminishing job market, you’ll need a post-secondary degree. Which means today’s kids are now tens of thousands of dollars in debt before ever leaving home. For all that, too many of them end up working at Starbucks or a shop in the mall.
Given the levels of personal debt and the job scarcity, it’s no surprise that most people are unwilling to rock the boat and challenge the system. We’re owned, and it won’t do to threaten the owners. Just keep your head down and keep doing your job, even if the job sucks, the hours are long and there’s no sign of a raise in pay.
Compliance makes good customers. Companies like that. Companies also like data. You are just a data point, with subsets of data, thanks to the internet and the way it can track and record your every move online. Now even your DNA is part of the data-mining process. It’s called ‘biometric data’, and some companies as well as our governments are deciding how to use it. In fact, the new cannabis legislation from the Trudeau government can now legally collect an “oral fluid sample” in a roadside stop to check if you’re stoned. This is an issue. How long will these samples be stored? Will these samples be stored for later use to determine anyone’s DNA? This should concern you because your DNA is your complete personal dataset.
And if your DNA is up for grabs, what else is on the block? Well, just about everything. The unspoken goal is to isolate each of us into a trackable behavioural entity. This works pretty well for businesses that want to put a monthly needle in your arm. That’s where all that online data pays off, turning Google and Facebook into advertising monsters, gobbling up 99 percent of all paid advertising growth online.
It’s not just our data that’s being harvested. We’re actively being farmed. By banks. By telecoms. Car companies. Advertisers for our eyes, ears and clicks. Schools for credentialization. Employers for our waking hours. Governments for our taxes and compliance. The whole damned system is a farm.
The end result is clear. We’re literally being corralled into a society of ones and zeros. More than ever we have fewer real world friends and more online ‘friends’. Many of us have no real friends at all. As the New York Times, The Guardian and even Fortune report, loneliness has become an epidemic, and to fill the void we go shopping, tunnel even deeper online or turn to alcohol and drugs. Divorce and suicide rates keep rising—hitting middle aged men particularly hard. Social isolation comes with a high cost.
All of this is merely a symptom of a much deeper disease. Our macro-economic systems are farming us—and the planet—to death. Oceans are dying. The soil is dying. Polar regions are melting. Dozens of species are going extinct every day. The question becomes, is it too late to hit pause and completely rethink everything we do, everything we are? The first step is leaving the farm.