The Hidden Initiation – Thoughts after Reading Jonathan Black’s The Secret History of the World

Jonathan Black’s The Secret History of the World is a hard book to recommend.

On the one hand, it is an overwhelming undertaking; namely an attempt to reveal the secret ideas of cults and mystery societies since the dawning of mankind. On the other hand, it is an undertaking that seems to be abandoned by the author throughout the book.

Here is not a scholarly research, but more of a mixture of history and speculative literature, with Black often playing on the Secret part to allow a lack of eruditeness. You won’t find exact references and citations in Black’s book, but many stories, anecdotes and tidbits which at times create a cohesive account of a secret history, yet more often remain fragmented.

It is nevertheless full of interesting ideas and references to noted historical figures, who Black attests by were all knowers of the secret history. Black, the eponym for Mark Booth, asks the reader from the first pages of TSHOTW to allow this indiscretion since the narrative conceived by the secret societies is “upside down and inside out”; meaning, they adhere to an almost reverse view of the world from the modern, physical science’s conception.

The Secret History of the World

The Secret History of the World

The secret history of the world, according to Black, goes something like this:

The world was created out of thought (and not from matter as is conceived in today’s physical sciences). This thought predated and in fact created matter. Matter first appeared as a thin gas, impossible to sense even by sight or touch. Then, this gas began to slowly condense and solidify until it hardened enough in order to generate the minerals around us. From these minerals gradually emanated a second, vegetative phase, with the growing of plants. From this, emerged the third and final animal phase, from which humans have arisen. According to the secret history, mankind is the summit point of all evolution, being the only creature capable of being consciously aware of this creation.

Black calls this history an “idealistic” one for its formation of physical things out of ideas – matter out of mind. This mind is what that initial gas was, and it appeared in an already perfect form, reminiscent of Plato’s sense of ideals. Black indeed sees Plato as a member of secret societies and thus a proponent of the secret history.

In the times of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, idealism was still a “living Philosophy (TSHOTW, p. 124). When Plato speaks of Ideals he is referring to them very much as an existing realm. The allegory of the cave is in fact about how thought creates material. Additionally, most of the ancient hybrids depicted in classical literature, such as the creatures that are a mixture of man, animal and God – the likes found in Ovid, the Greek pantheon, the Egyptian one and so forth – are all depictions of the living world while we could share imaginatively the same mind with the animals and the rest of creation.  These creatures are envisioned anachronistically by us today as if they are half-breeds, while back when these stories were lived and perceived these creatures were thought of as actual.

This history is also not completely linear and is in actuality moving in an ebb and flow pattern. According to Black, humanity is currently moving on a returning path, back into the initial gas form. The axis of this boomerang evolution was the appearance of Jesus Christ. As Black states throughout TSHOTW, the appearance of many renowned figures on the stage of history indicates consecutive spiritual phases in the development of mankind.

If you can’t criticize a book – what’s the point of reading it?

I do not wish to criticize Black’s book for its obvious incommensurability with today’s materialistic beliefs of the world, as some critics have already done. His request to depict a “topsy turvy” image for the origins of the world, in his words, is enough to make such criticisms futile. What I do regret is the book’s lack of ordered conclusiveness, showing in Black’s unsystematic approach. The Secret History offers many interesting and at times magically inspiring notions, yet does not pursue any of the to the fullest.

Although TSHOTW wishes to unravel the fact that many renowned historical figures were avid members of mystery groups, it does little to show how this affected their craft or their lives. The brevity of description awarded to most of these figures reads often like tabloid material or an old fashioned almanac. The idea that the secret history has been around us in literature, art and music for so long, and that hints have been planted by initiates as a way of communicating secretly with other acolytes is definitely intriguing. Sadly, black only allows glimpses of this idea throughout the book, as if he himself was writing a secret, hint-laden manuscript.

Another point of critique is that the attempt at a historic account of secret thinking is almost entirely westernized. Black focuses mostly on the esoteric ideas promulgated and followed by westerners. He fails to deal with the influences of eastern belief, science and philosophy on early western thought. He does note the Chakras throughout the book, although as an already fully formed idea that is intertwined with western arcane concepts. While this omission might be done for the sake of adding mystery, I believe that Black simply knows more about western cults to dare plunge into the ocean of ancient eastern wisdom. A choice that, for me at least, nullifies much of the “historic” intention that is behind TSHOTW.

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Secret Initiation Stories

Black claims that many great minds throughout history have been initiated into secret knowledge. This means that they were also probably taught in ways of reaching higher, more ancient connections with said knowledge. The fact that this knowledge was so well disseminated on the one hand yet was still kept under wraps is not easy to accept. Black hints at the ways of secret societies in keeping this history private, in their constant alluding to it in allegorical art. He recounts some the characteristics of the practices undertaken by mystery cults throughout history.

Secret practices make us realize the true possibility of stepping out of the body. They involves an initiation, which usually practices being taken to a secret location, mostly underground; being asked inquisitive questions about our life and past, and being scared for our life to the point of realization that we wish to transform who we are and give for the greater good. “By the act of leaving the body the candidate knew beyond any possibility that death is not the end.” (p. 186). There is an out of body experience “that is shattering (p. 190), the spirit experiences “a lightness which nobody who has not been initiated could describe or understand”.  A being guides the initiate through the underworld, who is the god of the planet mercury, and then there is a strange swap, in which this guide reveals himself to be Lucifer, who is a “necessary evil”. Secret initiation prepares the candidate for a meetings with the guardians after death – who are the stars of the different spheres “both on the way up and on the way down”.

So, for the sake of making the most out of Black’s 500+ page book, I would like to assume that he is right in at least the detailing of the secret initiation rites. It could be interesting to pursue the secret initiation in the plotlines of several famous stories. These are some of the symbols and narratives which characterize, according to Black, the process of being initiated into a mystery school:

  • Being underground – a place where on receives secret knowledge
  • Being scared to death – a part of the process of forgetting past identity and accepting a renewed, spiritual life
  • An out of body experience
  • Traveling through the stars, both upwards and downwards
  • Conversing with the devil
  • Spiritual transformation and enlightenment
  • Oath or understanding of mandatory secrecy

So, much in the spirit of presumption embedded in The Secret History of the World, but with a nudge towards a more researched approach, let’s look at some of the classic stories available for us in our western society and see whether they meet these criteria. These narratives take the form of children stories, folk tales, myths and legends, known to us from the bible to Disney movies. Some of these stories will not contain all of the parameters on the list for an initiation story. They might nevertheless be about a form of secret initiation, or inspired, as stories often are, by a predecessor tale which was indeed about rites of accepting secret knowledge.

Secret Initiation Symbols and Acts in famous Stories

Initiation Story Criterion /StoryBeing UndergroundScared to DeathNear Death/Out of Body ExperienceTraveling through the StarsMeeting the DevilSpiritual TransformationOath of Secrecy
Jesus Christ+++++
Sleeping Beauty+++
The Golem of Prague++
The Binding of Isaac+++
The Little Mermaid+++
The Crossroads++++
The Lion King++
Jonah and the Whale++++

How Digital Media has changed how we Think, Operate and Behave

To say that people are occupied with their digital technology devices nowadays is almost redundant. One only needs to walk about in a big city and see how leering into cellphones has become a human reflex. What was not too long ago spoken about in terms of escapism is now a common and acceptable mode of behavior. The reasons for the meteoric rise in smartphone use are also fairly obvious, being a one-stop-shop for much of our informational and communicational needs, enough to outweigh its escapist proclivities. I wish to claim that much of the social disconnect that we experience nowadays can be explained by the rapid entrance of the new information media into our lives. That is, while we might believe that we are in charge of our thoughts and behavior, that we can choose how to examine things in front of us; our use of media ends up dictating our scope of perception, our expectations from reality, from ourselves and from others, and creates our cultures in its likeness.

Marshall McLuhan famously coined the phrase ‘the medium is the message’ to encapsulate a natural law – that the means and structures through which we perceive reality impact that reality itself. This idea has predated McLuhan and appeared in many incarnations and not limited to any genres, from Emmanuelle Kant to Chuck Palahniuk. As obvious as this notion may appear, it is a profoundly useful tool for analyzing the changing world. By regarding the digital technologies in our disposal today – like computers and smartphones – not merely as instruments for executing our wishes, we might see them alternately as mechanisms that also require from us a particular set of actions and engagements, we could see how ultimately they cause us to operate in recurring ways, forming new habits, behaviors and modes of thought. By examining some of the habits we have developed in dealing with digital technology, it is possible to explain and predict many urging issues unfolding in the world today.

Digital technology is at its peak of accessibility nowadays. Personal computers and handheld mobile devices with an internet connection, or smartphones, are passing the tipping point in which over 50% of the world population has one, and is thus considered a ‘user’ (and in the top 10 developed countries in the world, that percentage reaches around 73% of the total population). With such dramatic numbers it is apparent that digital technology is causing a revolution of histories scale, with what seems like an unstoppable trajectory of expansion. Several thinkers expressed their predictions for the course that this revolution will take or, more accurately, how it will end, with a spectrum of conflicting ideas. The ecophilosopher and primitivist John Zerzan sees technology as a whole as a the abandoning and forgoing of nature, and sees digital technology as a culmination of humans becoming alienated and robotic; whereas science fiction author Bruce Sterling regards the digital revolution as a passing fad, much like the nuclear age craze of the 40’s and 50’s in the USA, which he suggests will pass with a silent hum by the 2030’s.

Even though this tidal wave of digital technology invites predictions of how societies and individuals will appear in the future, looking far ahead is unnecessary. The impact of over 20 years of internet access and of smartphone usage is apparent right now, in much of the western world today.

Did we choose to use computers and smartphones or did they choose us? Throughout history, other media have come into existence based on the requirements of their time, culture and history. The literary novel has changed its form over the years and around the world in both length and subject matter, based on how much free time people had for enjoying  a leisurely read.  Nevertheless, it is possible to identify a cultural preference to use certain media instead of others. The rise of the internet managed to abolish much of printed journalism, just as the popularity of smartphones eroded the photography business. The more optimized and effortless our actions thanks to a particular medium, the better chance that medium has of lasting. And so, the most optimal systems of delivering and receiving information, that is also most suitable to our times right now is the smartphone. These transformations and metamorphoses of one media to another have often led to different cultural behaviors. The pace of living, the way we perceive the world and our expectations of ourselves and other people, are very much constructed by the channels through which we accept reality.

It would be helpful at this point to examine some of the recurring actions we are required to make in the routine use of a smartphone. These are all standard processes we accept as part of the operating rituals of digital technology, yet they have no parallel in the real, non-virtual life. We can try and extrapolate how each action becomes over time an actual habit, and how it is finally translated into to new forms of human behavior.

The Operating System makes the Real world Virtual

Most people over 18 in the west have already been shaped by digital operating systems even before the arrival of the smartphone, due to previously using a personal computer. The most popular operating system in the world, Microsoft’s ‘Windows’, has conditioned users to its mode of operating. A product of 80’s American corporate mentality, Microsoft Windows is riddled with metaphors and concepts[a]  from the business world of an office. It has ‘files’ and ‘folders’, it has indeed and ‘Office’ brand for its top programs, it is built on the hierarchical language of DOS operating system, in which you give ‘commands’ and the computer carries out the tasks. 

While the language attempts to portray ‘Windows’ as a physical place of work, the actions it allows users to make are still performed in virtual space, and so none of its executions has any repercussions or gravity in the physical, real world. The recycle bin can make anything you previously saw or heard on the computer vanish with a click. Despite the fact that new information is still needed to overwrite the “deleted” data in order for the actual deletion to be performed, the message of this medium is that you can make your unwanted things and trash disappear in an instance; and the message, as said before, is reinforced through countless performances, through muscle memory, into a habit of thinking and behavior in the real world.

We still use personal computers, and so the underlying assumption that we can perform those actions in reality still lingers very much in the minds of the current generation. It is worth mentioning that computer use is on the decline, with most youth in the west nowadays preferring consoles and video games to the PC. Therefore, the engraining of ideas and behavior that is illustrated here applies mostly to those people 20-60 year old, and might indeed perish when they are no longer alive.

The Digital Rhythm and Responsibility

While they are often lauded for their fastness, their quick processing and speedy reaction time, digital media – when compared to speed of human capabilities – only fulfills the promise of being fast paced on some occasions. Computing powers of calculation now dwarf most of human ability, as is evident in performing basic and elaborate mathematical calculation that are unsurpassable by even those humans who have dedicated their lives for its mastery, as in the games of chess and ‘go’. On the other hand, operations which require more dexterity, flexibility, reasoning and even what to humans is considered basic communication skills, are a thing which as of yet, no digital system was able to approach. Computers take time to load, to connect, they require electricity, batteries, they are replaceable and, most noticeably, they tend to malfunction.

Examples of these can be found abundantly, and are epitomized at every locale where digital machines carry a sticker displaying the human contact’s number to call if it breaks down. In our case of personal use, computers and smartphones both engage many systems which appear as innovative yet mimic human capabilities with slower results. These include printing, since the operations needed to print a page – from connecting the cables, clicking files and commands, loading paper, etc., are much more elaborate and time consuming than handwriting onto a piece of paper. Handwriting, being more tactile than typing on a keyboard or pressing on a touch screen, is also disappearing thanks to the use of the computer and phone. While this might be environmentally healthier, the relocation of the written word to an exclusively virtual space marshals the vanishing of its reverence and gravity. In explaining why he prefers to write his jokes not using a computer writing software but with a pen on a yellow legal pad, Jerry Seinfeld mentioned the stress induced by the ever-present, ever-blinking line at the end of your digital word processing sentence. Adding to the diminishing gravity of the written word is the digital media’s ability to update and change their texts at any time. The words in a printed book acquire their significance from their being unchangeable, and being so, they have real consequence.

As opposed to that, today with the decline of printed journalism and books, their online digital versions are easily changeable and updated, with the headlines of every major news organization alternating more rapidly than ever, even for the same article. Given this ability to correct and edit on the go, true consequence is gone. Newspapers in the digital age, perhaps without our noticing, have lost their status as moral compasses, of being reliable and responsible. With responsibility gone, cynicism and despair take hold, as is very much apparent in today’s world of journalistic coverage. As will be discussed soon, the current climate of ‘fake news’, much like ‘reality TV’, resulted from the internet’s placing higher merit on changeability than on consequence and research.

Here too, it is interesting to notice the language used for renaming and altering perceived reality within the digital medium that is the internet, and to observe how it is then passed on to venues in physical life. When changing a digitized piece of text, the most common terms are “edit”, “update” and “refresh”. These words seem to refer to a text as a part of a series of appearances, each rejuvenating and giving it renewed life. This change of pace has indeed created an impossibility for news coverage to continue in any other structure but the 24 hour news cycle. But while the new corporations have all the machinery to observe and report (a word originally meaning “account told, rumor“) things that are happening in real time, they are also driven to display those concurrent happenings in real time, lacking the breadth of vision and the distance needed to process and investigate deeper into the worth of a story. Much of the extreme outrage characterizing western culture nowadays (and the emergence of ‘fake outrage’) is a byproduct and incarnation of the 24 hour news cycle. With news corporations playing by the digital media’s pace, they have become a reactionary medium, offering on-the-spot commentary to the events they are witnessing; whereas given more time, they could have stopped and investigated deeper.

Uniformity of Information and Tribal Mentality

The standardization and uniformity of written texts predates the modern era, and can be traced to the invention of the Guttenberg printing press in 1440. Before that, texts were hand copied so that different versions of the same texts would be varied with many nuances and idiosyncrasies. Since Guttenberg, uniformity has become a standard in the reproduction of visual and auditory works of art. Uniformity is an artificial manmade construct, which does not occur in nature, much like right angles, yet years of industrialization and automation have instilled its image in our cultural psyche. But where previous media and technology outpoured “forgivable” uniform creations such as cars, clothes, machinery, etc., the internet risks promising the standardization of information itself.

The internet works much like a telephone conversation. It connects between one side and another side for the exchange of information. This can be symmetrical, as in a chat, or one sided, as in browsing through webpages. Nevertheless, the internet is often portrayed as an “information superhighway”, or more colloquial is the term “world wide web”. Again, much like the computer’s operating system, metaphors of place and space appear. We start browsing on our “home” page, move to different “sites” send emails to “addresses” and webpages are assigned a “domain”. Along with the web metaphor, the internet is often conceptualized as a huge network, an equivalent to a big city, a massive library, or the universe. All these are ways or trying to order the very much unstructured nature of the internet.

The Internet from Above [source:]

Where the internet reveals its underpinnings as being a cluster of callers on a circuit board is in the chat rooms and online message boards which allow anyone with a modem to sound their voice.  As expected, such sites are notorious for the impossibility of creating anything similar to a real life conversation. The sensation of such forums is of a rabble of people attempting to talk over one another since that’s the only way they could get a word in.

Sounds familiar?

If you managed to identify moments like these in real life, you’re not alone.  In the last decades, groups of people all around the world have been expressing themselves increasingly vocally, with a significant rise in protests all over the globe. The Financial Times ran an article which describes 2020 as “The Year of Protests”, and have asked whether these gatherings are so popularized that they have become less effective

 While one could say that it is not just the discordant nature of the internet that leads to more violent communication patterns but the information itself that is becoming more available and horrific, I wish to claim that the internet has shaped our very perception of information and knowledge, making us expect a uniformity of thought on a grander scale than ever. The expectation of uniform, identical information has become so prevalent, that its clashing with the many voiced world leads to violence, intolerant behaviors.

With the powerful ability to instantaneously receive information and answers to questions, we have become, in a significantly short time, willfully dependent on the internet and on smartphones as its most accessible vehicle. The ability to reach to our phones and find seemingly inexhaustible responses to our needs has created a sort of reflex reaction. You do not need to stop and count the times you have reached for your phone to search for something you don’t know, but simply look around and see that it is already ubiquitous in our culture. The internet does the same thing for emotional distress, of course, offering optimized communication that serves as an instant fix, but it is extremely dangerous when information itself becomes fixated and perceived as uniform – which is what our new reflex of quick-answers has brought about. In other words, we have grown accustomed to thinking that the internet has all the right answers.

Given the fact the internet is carried by binary media, most of us have unknowingly became habituated to seeing it as a life calculator, demanding of it answers for what is true or false, right or wrong. And this habit, especially at the hands of young people who grew up using the internet, is an instrument of uniformity. It abounds with informational sites for life answers, from Wikipedia to Quora, from Snopes to FactCheck. The irony is that these websites, originating out of a desire for critical thinking, ultimately contribute to the abolition of human questioning. The internet, in other words, started as a promise for polyphony of opinions and cultures and ultimately makes us crave absoluteness.

And this absoluteness is already experienced in many countries today. For a generation of well-off people all around the world, and particularly in the rich western countries, growing up with the internet has bred people’s expectation of the world to appear a certain way and not the other. Going through a generational clash as did countless other groups in history, many western youth today present the novelty of not being able to understand or deal with the existence of opposing opinions. This is often touted as part of their being the ‘snowflake’ generation, yet I think saying they are spoiled misses the mark – their inability to understand, I believe, is based in their view that no person who was exposed to the same information could reach different conclusions. That is, the free information found online has caused them to assume that the truth itself is uniform, and anyone who disagrees with their perception must have an ulterior motive.

For what these websites create is the assumption that it is natural to have all the information at the palm of your hands at all times, and that everybody else is supposed to have it as well. Such expectations induce stress and generate a shock – realizing that copious amounts of information do not make people likeminded or uniform in their thinking – signals that we do not have a single answer for most of the prevalent questions in life.

This behavior is not endemic to the snowflake generation, to social justice warriors, Gen Z, or any other name by which to call new groups of young people. It has invaded most of our cultures. In many western societies who are smartphone ridden, straying from cultural norms has begun to be seen as more grotesque and downright impossible, than ever before. We begin expecting each other to become in sync with our own mentality, as if in perfect unison. This explains the phenomenon known as ‘cancel culture’ (another computerized phrase thrown into real life). We opt to do away and discard anything that strays from the norm. The dangers of this computerization of the living world only start with the social deterioration we are witnessing the last years, but might end in a collective schizophrenia, a war waged for the sake of purging unwanted (natural) elements that do not exist in the binary realm.

Commodification and Comfort

There are plenty of other changes that the new media has imposed upon the smartphone carrying man and woman. It is possible to talk about how the quickness and uniformity of typing has led to a similar expectation of human communication, in conversation. I would venture into claiming that the pace of a talk show or a TV sitcom – that is, eliciting a laugh every 5 seconds or so – has transfigured from the appearance of the typed word, and since it bled into our lives. Moreover, the web’s ability to display only visual and auditory information has caused a stifling in activities based on the other sensory perceptions, with the exclusion of beautiful food, since it is possible to display it in visual form and elicit a taste-bud reaction. On the contrary, there is no trend of taking pictures of wines, perfumes or bubble baths. Time will tell whether the collective peak in the usage of exclusively visual and auditory devices will cause a development in the neuronal clusters in the brain in charge of those parts. With young children playing more hand-eye coordination games on console devices, I believe this will be the case.

Add to these the option to scroll endlessly and swiftly through more and more information and you will understand how impatient and demanding of new stimuli the internet prompts us to be. As an inverse of this, we are now driven to shallower thinking, with much less stamina for judging and analyzing the information given us. In a way, we become more accepting, yet unquestioning, similar to robots on a convey belt of images and sounds, and expect ourselves and other to behave in much the same manner. This is but another way in which the operating mechanism which we use begins creating us in its form – we become the things that we own. And so, robots operating robots is a bleak image for our society, which might have appeared exaggerated if it were not for the way in which the new media objectifies and commodifies our reality – and eventually, ourselves.

Becoming robotic is not only a hyperbole but in fact a point worth stopping to think about. Since using smartphones stifles our habit of deep and clear reflection, we eventually lose our ability to asses our own inner feelings. It is easy to notice how today, from a young age, this is already taking place. When cellular phones only started becoming popular, debates have arisen about whether or not children should be given them, and at what age should we start giving kids access to a smartphone and to the internet. In the second decade of the 21st century, such debates seem out of touch with reality, and parents are using the pacifying capabilities of smartphones on children from as early as toddlerhood. The irony behind such acts is that it is impossible to dismiss them as merely bad parenting; since pacifying is something all smartphone users take part in, whether they can admit to it or not.

From the comforts of having all the information we need at hand, to the seeming proximity we get to our loved ones, the smartphone is today’s quickest route to short term happiness. It has the ability to supply endless neurochemical stimulants and relaxants. From watching pictures that create the sensation of enjoyment, such as nice food, recognizable people and beautiful places; to receiving approval and even constant complements in the form of social media clicks, reactions and comments – the smartphone, with all its many helpful features, is put to use principally as a form of self-medication. By being continuously comforted, we begin expecting this state in real life as well as online, with our pacifiers firmly in hand.

Social media offers the drug of companionship, of amity and of approval. It has already changed much of the way we interact with one another in real life, I will claim, and is the foremost instrument for our increasingly commodified view of reality. By placing the carrot of social acceptance and companionship in front of our faces, social media has done away with much of the mechanism and structures created naturally for people to gravitate towards one another in real life. And while it may be true that entire social constructs such as etiquette, courtship, even hobbies and friendship can be seen in fact as byproducts of desiring the same neurochemical pleasure that social media provides in its instant version – they are not interchangeable since each of them offers different types of experience, namely a subjective and an objective experience.

As a binary medium, displaying visual and auditory information, the internaet offers an exclusively objective experience, by which I mean that turns our perception of anything put inside it into an object. For example, watching images of our friends on Facebook, no matter how dear they are to our hearts or even if we closely remember them from a meeting in the near past, is still placed within a square frame, among an endless scroll of other bits of information, related or unrelated, being held or placed on a desk, being able to click, and mostly static – with the ability to manipulate. All these are attributes of frozen and unchanging objects. The mere appearance of anything within a medium makes it objectified. Whereas seeing our friends in person provides a constant change, an unexpectedness as well as many more parameters for sensing, like smell, touch etc., all of which are attributes of subjective existence. And so the more time we spend replacing real life, subjective information, with media-ted, objectified information, we begin losing the ability to subjectify – that is, to relate to others, to sense the world around us as alive and having an individual existence – and begin commodifying our surroundings as if they were a part of an endless scroll, there for our instant gratification.

The Great Objectification – The Flattening of Reality

The continuing of all this has already led, in my opinion, to the further demolishing of such social constructs as friendship, marriage and the family. With the almost metaphysical law that what we create and repeat will make us in its own image, the internet’s constant informational flow would seem to be turning us users into information seeking and delivering automatons. E. M. Forster’s 1909 short science fiction story The Machine Stops depicts a future where humans are living solitary lives in pods which supply them with endless communication with other people around the world. They spend their time either creating or listening and seeing others giving lectures on various topics. Forster’s famous saying “always connect” predates the experiential tug of war currently taking place between the objectified and the subjective dimensions of real life. While the internet’s virtual nature has no bearing on real life, the expectations and behavior we have repeatedly come to employ while using it are sticking out into subjective, lived experiences, and dismantling much of the communication and perceptions involved with everyday social life.

As with the rise of ‘Cancel Culture’, many subcultures and movements in today’s society are displaying the push and pull of the internet onto our real experiences. No longer are the old considered as wise for their experience, since experience is knowledge found in subjective information. For well over a generation now, western culture is profoundly children-centric, placing higher values on youthfulness and its characteristics, like swiftness of action, dexterity and freshness. Yet a bigger change that the internet has brought forth is in its striving for collective, group mentality.

Being submerged under a constant flow of superfluous data and information that the internet provides, it is practically impossible for anyone to sift through it all and evaluate which bit is correct and which is false. Our latent desire to keep scrolling for more stimuli while being able to handle new information in extremely high dosages has led to an inevitable decontextualizing- a flattening of our valuation systems. This flattening which enabled the optimizing our reaction speed, has  led to the reactionary and inflammatory nature apparent in message boards, forums and Facebook comments– with numerous funny laws appearing to explain the failings of its communication framework – most of which originating, to my estimation, from the habit formed online to expect absolute information, in a clear binary yes-no fashion. A mere disagreement online is immediately cast as an argument with two distinct sides. The fault is in the medium itself and I our expectations of it. Yet arguing online is benign compared to taking this flattened perception of reality into the streets.

The inability to analyze information in its context is a growing problem of character, leading many younger people to crises of personality in numbers far exceeding anything in past years. The inability to detach from objectified, media-ted information, has desensitized a great number of people and brought upon a rift in their ability to identify their own personal, subjective sensations. Many today are stripped of having a real sense of inner monologue and moral compass, and with such existential insecurity bubbling, have made their most basic affiliations a safe haven and meaning. Tribal mentality is a new name for such classic phenomena as blind patriotism, nationalism or chauvinism – it is the weak individual’s falling back on a certainty; the confused psyche’s escape towards things that it cannot change, like its country of birth or its race or gender, and tapping into it as a source for safety and strength, often in a violent and overcompensating manner. While there is much to say about the psychological changes brought upon by the internet, the point combining most of its various expressions all is an insecurity and new forms of doubting reality – all of which create frightful and often vicious individuals, willing to use drastic measures to latch on to their identity.

The End of Subjectivity as we know it?

Observing current daily life through common media channels, a sense of immanent finality is inescapably present. It appears as if culture has run its course and new technology and its promises for a better tomorrow is only making things worse, commodifying the world and ourselves while turning the planet into a wasteland. The present-day intoxication from internet technology, social media and the uninterrupted flow of information, are changing our behavior and views of reality right now. It is all the more tempting to predict how our psyches and societies will change on account of the internet and digital media, since such prophecies are another form of escapism and desire to correct the wrongs perceived at the present time. Instead of predictions, I would like to consider the one thing that is changing due to our new capabilities of simulating reality, which is our subjectivity.

As stated, the internet has the ability to objectify our perception of the world – to dilute real happenings from any context, to extract the human element out of them, to make the world appear to us as binary, with the only things possible for consideration are those quantifiable and calculable. In gradually stopping to turn to our inner voice for answers and comfort, we are losing touch with its existence. The term “gut feeling” is very fitting for describing that subjective sense of inner knowing, a trustworthy way that is closest to us.

The French sociologist and philosopher of culture Jean Baudriard observed mankind’s growing ability to signify reality, and saw our times as being post-modern in the sense that the relation between our instruments and tools for signifying reality and that reality itself, are becoming indistinguishable. For such a world, in which we cannot tell apart the real from the signified, Baudriard coined the term “Simulacra” as a simulation and mimicking of reality that has become identified with the thing it is mimicking. This is apparent in our current culture in its most recent embodiment in the rise of Deep fake technology, which is a video and audio representation so similar to reality that it is difficult for us to identify it as being computer generated. The rise of “fakeness” as a term to describe the simulating nature of the internet is to me a sign of the medium’s deteriorating power of representation. We distrust only what we can sense is not true to begin with, and while the technology is getting better at copying reality, it is ironically seen by us as chiefly an act of fakery. I see this as a sign of something unchanging, a subjective element in mankind, which puts the new digital media in a perspective of human evolution since the rise of symbolization.

The ability to create a symbol, and thus, to simulate reality, has been around for millennia. As a unique, thinking species, ours is the ability to symbolize and to mimic. It is quite possible therefore, to see in the many inventions of humanity through the ages a mere copying of nature, from language to the computer, from the wheel to the internet. There is an almost biological predisposition for people to copy themselves into things they create. This recreation of ourselves is repetitively done perhaps for the sake of expanding our infinity-reaching minds out of our limited corporeal bodies, in Ernest Beker’s terms -much like winning an award or securing everlasting fame. The creation of digital media and of the internet is our most recent attempt in simulating reality, in encapsulating every piece of the landscape in a single objective framework. Yet, as all reality is subjectively experienced, it is relentlessly changing, and so in itself is endless and infinite like our imaginative minds. It is my subjective feeling that in the future additional attempts will be made to capture as much of reality as possible, and in so doing various new technologies will be utilized, yet these would also diminish when reaching the point of obvious mimicking, when they – like DeepFake technology, reveal their intentions of simulating the actual surroundings.

This does not diminish the already devastating impact of the digital media on the current pace of living. The 24 hour news channels have created a heightened sense of stress that is enough to cause anyone relying on it as a source for news to become morbidly frightful and enraged; the smartphone and GPS navigation have annihilated our former ability for orientation and memory; and with every new popular app, a previous human capability is extinguished. Yet all of these are still tools, and require us to use them, to operate them, and to turn them on. Although we have become a generation that would rather record reality and comment on it than create it or experience it, a backlash is immerging with the same protests discussed before signaling a change in moods. The global pandemic has reminded many of the reasons they crave being outside, breathing fresh air and engaging physically with other people. Although Forster’s portrayal of the future as a being willingly cooped in a room for one is becoming a vivid concern, virtual existence has not won yet in the fight over human consciousness.

[a] The idea that metaphors and figurative language are revealing of how we perceive our concepts, was suggested by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their 1980’s book, Metaphors We Live by. It is a vital source for understanding how we create meaning by building our concepts of the world with metaphoric language.

A Thought about Stories

“Change is tremendously stressful, so control the amount of newness you must face”

In one of his more popular lectures, which became known by the title “How to live the rest of your life”, Neil Postman warns against facing too much “newness” all at once.

As a general rule, this is not only great for mustering the forcefulness of life, but is also serves as a fine guideline for writers everywhere in plotting a story.

When reading a book, a short story or even a non-fiction text, the narrative works best when it revolves around a single key novelty. Any other information which is new for the reader, and unrelated to the main novelty ,should be kept to a minimum. This creates a greater impact on audiences I believe, both aesthetically and morally, and is the heart of great storytelling – i.e. knowing what information to include and what to leave out.

This made me think that the true meaning of stories as a thing that human beings do. Stories are a construct intended for coping. The lasting of stories as a human act is due to their ability to make people aware of those new things that might come their way in life – that is, the hardship, perils, heartbreaks, danger, surprises – and in devising a way to memorize them for later use.

A good story, in other words, is always a lesson.

The fact the newness is hard for us to deal with, is probably a great clue to the way the human mind works. Despite our ability to symbolize, human beings are best able to face things based on habits and muscle memory. Stories, texts and narratives all help us visualize and memorize more newness than we have ever faced, and the catharsis and joy we obtain from a good plot is partly through the sensation of having “leveled up” and learned how to cope another novelty.

Eating Animals and our Dishonest Discourse

In recent years, the question of eating animals has been stirring intense debates. Conversations about consuming meat usually end in a disgruntled clash between two sides – namely vegans and meat eaters. While both parties in this argument display their stand adamantly, I argue that dishonesty and self-deception is behind each of their arguments and that much like animals, the real arguments are left unheard..


It is easy to see why the question of eating animals, since its surfacing, has remained in the focus of both public and private discourse in recent years. Eating animal meat relates to our most basic of functions, that of nourishing and surviving.

While debates surrounding the eating of animals appear more omnipresent and fervent today than ever before, a sort of stalemate seems to have been reached. Whether on the media, or in conversation with friends or co-workers, speaking about consuming meat will most likely end up in a clash of ideas between a vegan and a carnivore diet. A sense of unbridgeable doom will hover over the topic, causing people to try and avoid it entirely.

Yet the real problem is not with the topic – it is with the fact that both “sides” are engaged in a dishonest conversation, both to their audience and to themselves.

1. The Arguments are Dishonest

Whenever eating animals is discussed, one is almost guaranteed to hear any of the following lines of thought:

  • Man was/wasn’t meant to eat animals
  • Eating animals is healthy/unhealthy
  • Growing and slaughtering animals is good/ bad for the economy
  • People have/haven’t been eating animals for years
  • Killing animals is moral/immoral
  • Man has/hasn’t the right to kill animals

These claims might wear the guise of scientific research, they may involve reliance on experience or, more often than not, on hearsay and speculation. But the truth is, they are all irrelevant.

The desire to be absolutely right leads the proponents of veganism-carnivorism to seek and employ hard “proof” from the realms of science, medicine and history.

Eating animal products might be associated, rightly, with bad heart condition and early deaths in humans, while a shortage of vitamin B12 will be, rightly, linked to a vegan diet; the animal slaughtering industry is responsible for much of the deforestation, polluting and ruining of the earth’s resources, while eating animals has been found in most cultures ,around the world for thousands of years; man’s stomach and teeth, as well as his evolutionary connection with primates place him closer to herbivores than carnivores, although his ability to heat his food and to successfully consume more species than any other natural predator sets him apart from most other animals.

With each side continuously finding more research, case studies and natural observations to serve as evidence for their particular belief, debates remain conflicting and very much stalemated.

The desire to find “proof” from the hard sciences in order to reveal whether the eating of meat to be ultimately wrong or right, natural or unnatural – is in itself an act of self-deception.

The reason why so many speakers find themselves divided into only two camps, is that the majority of people do not dare utter any complex or unresolved feelings in regards to eating living creatures.

(The term *living creatures* is of itself complex and needs further explication. Is the killing of shellfish similar to slaughtering pigs, for example? Does picking plants and vegetables constitute as killing? For the sake of basing a standard for consideration, I will later write on this with a focus on what constitutes as “suffering”, suggesting that it’s possible to define and classify suffering based on nerve complexity in living organisms. For the ideas presented in this paper, I will suffice with referring to living things as a generalization).

Since, what can any person say when they obviously feel emphatically sad to see the torture and mutilation of helpless beings– when in fact that person’s cravings necessitate this evil? The eating of animals almost demands that we admit to a guilt which for many is too much to handle.

In dealing with this guilt, most people choose from only two options: either becoming a carnivore, thus opting to remain voluntarily ignorant and cruel, in order to justify the craving for eating animals; or becoming a vegan, and thus opting to be intentionally aware, though grief-stricken and burdened, abstaining from animal products entirely in order to justify a moral choice.

Despite the both being viable paths on their own right, each choice is an extremity, and its proponents consider it the only possible path – indeed, as an ideal.

In the attempt to rid ourselves of the guilt of eating animals, these two arguments have by now become a fixed framework for thinking, manipulating opinions and swaying the topic into something it is not, only to vindicate people’s coping mechanism.

Our guilt for torturing animals for their meat is very much covered up by the arguments of both carnivores and vegans.

Whether meat is healthy or unhealthy, historically proven or not, economically sound or not – are all but justifications to rid ourselves of guilt.

We do not surface this guilt in conversation since we know that dealing with it demands not knowing what to do or think; it also opens up the possibility of feeling we are wrong, and need to change or lives and ourselves.

Guilt is hard to accept, and both carnivores and vegans often utilize their chosen path to deflect and push guilt away from them as much as possible.

The debate is dishonest first and foremost because of guilt.

Sadly, in the process of choosing between these extreme options, any uncertain, reserved or questioning opinions become lost.

Any idea straying from this binary pairing of veganism-carnivorism is made to almost appear irrelevant. And thus, the way to a deceitful portrayal is paved.

Unfortunately for the creatures who suffer the most, this fake argument winds up helping those who have built an industry on their torture and who need it for their gain.

2. Moving beyond the Deceit

The underlying tone behind every argument surrounding the eating of animals is guilt, on both sides.

The real conflict, with which every emphatic human is cursed, is that eating animal meat feels good and natural, yet the killing of animals is done so brutally in inhumanely that it enrages us and makes us distraught. and confused.

Most people cannot stay in such a state of inner conflict for long. It drives us to choose one path that pacifies us, maintains our sense of self, as well as our sense of self-righteousness.

To be able to subsist and eat, we indeed need to justify our way of “solving” this matter, at least to ourselves.

This is why, whenever people discuss eating meat, an underlying tone will be a mutual recognition that a process of justification has taken place and an acknowledgement that the other party has made up their mind completely and without a doubt.

Such resolution is indeed required by our psychological need to be intact. Most people would not dare say “I don’t know”, or “I haven’t made up my mind yet” regarding the food that they eat – what we consume must be 100 percent approved, both mentally and physically, before we are able to intake it.

Can we acknowledge our guilt and move further in our understanding?

If we cease rationalizing the deeply intimate topic of eating animals and instead consider how we feel about it, people from all views will generally agree on these two basic assumptions:

  1. That people have been eating animals all over the world for many years.
  2. That treating animals like inanimate objects is monstrous and unjustified.

Every argument on the matter should start with an agreement on these two things, in order to allow for a productive exchange.

Agreeing on these two maxims throws all irrelevant justifications out the window.

It shows that no matter what science has to say about humans “being meant” to eat animals or not – the fact of the matter is that is happens nonetheless.

Agreeing on these two maxims also opens the door to recognize all things which hinders a sincere conversation about eating meat.

It abolishes the guilt that is in the way of discussion and sheds light on the single factor which is behind our dishonest discourse about eating animals – the factor creating our sense of guilt in the first place.

The thing hindering the genuine debate surrounding eating animals, the one in charge of our current dishonest discourse around it, is a relatively new mode of raising and producing animal meat – the modern factory farming system.

In a fantastic reversal of natural order, we in the west have come to accept and to justify a system so inhuman and astray from the natural order as the mass slaughter factory system.

While most people agree on the cruelty and alienation from nature that is factory farming of animals, when questioning this system the same people will be quick to absolve it and offer even more rationalizations for its existence.

With guilt successfully encountered, another powerful objection to our discourse over eating animals starts to reveal itself. This time it is fear.

Our acceptance of such a system, agreed by most to be cruel and alienated from nature – reveals an even more uncomfortable truth for most of us – a hidden servitude lying underneath the perceived freedom granted to us by the Capitalist mode.

The real reason why we are left to debate over lies is the fear that we cannot do anything about the “system” of mass scale slaughter because we depend on it completely for our own survival.

The industrial farming mechanism confronts us with our deepest feeling of powerlessness.

That is the fact that western man and woman have grown completely and utterly dependent on outer sources for their food – that we are, in fact enslaved to those corporations that slaughter and torture animals to deliver it to them.

3. Them and Us – Fear and Industrial Capitalism

This, in fact is the lie of industrial capitalism.

We in the last generations in the west have grown to accept the mode of food production by inhuman means as a necessary law of nature.

Perhaps to our amazement, the mass slaughtering factories has only been in existence for no more than 100 years.

In its short existence, the slaughter-industry has managed to convince so many of us that there was never another way of getting food, or any other artifacts of consumption. And the biggest lie of all is that we believe it.

Before its arrival, and in fact still found to this day in many non-industrial cultures throughout the world, people either took care of the animals which they later ate, or they hunted them.

Our discourse over factory-farming animals is subdued and relegated to veganism versus eating meat because it is a way of deceiving ourselves into thinking that we have many options, that we are in fact in control over our diets, and that we are enjoying the fruits of industrial progress.

The reality is that we have no control over the food that we consume .It is made with our complete ignorance of it, and thus our inability to decide what we intake puts us at the mercy of growers ad food corporations.

We in the western world are, in fact, in servitude to our masters the food suppliers, and they have the power to starve us when they please. A powerful and rich western man is more enslaved in terms of food than the lowliest farmer family growing its own food.

Western people’s fear and inability to face their servitude to the big companies is not subjected only to food, of course, but is echoed throughout all places where mass production has conquered.

Ever since the mass-scale mode of industrial manufacturing began making a lot of money for a handful of people, we have been driven to distance ourselves not only from our food, but from every artifact that we consume and use.

The furniture we buy now is made on an assembly line and mostly last only several years before it breaks down – causing enormous and unnecessary destruction of the planet’s natural resources; as happens with the disposable electronics we buy and the minerals and metals being quarried and mined for their operation.   

The artistry and craftsmanship of the past has all but vanished to make way for uniform, bland, uninspired things with which we now surround ourselves, only to replace at each opportunity. While the artisan’s chair might be looked at again and again and reveal ideas, spark the imagination and become infused with memories, the assembly line chair carries no meaning, and is nothing but utilitarian.  

No more artistry, no more memories, no more man. We become functionary.

Life in an industrial environment becomes less worth living – it is less filled with things that we like. In such a surrounding, happiness becomes momentary and fleeting.

Back to animals – hunting was the longest one would be involved and occupied with getting food.

A process of hunting in many tribal cultures is a ritual experience in which one envelops themselves in wild nature, to become more and more attentive to the ways of the animals.

The actual kill carries with it the immediate sensation of guilt accompanied with relief, which are the reasons for carrying out absolving prayers and rituals to the soul of that animal which you will consume.

These make you one with the slayed animal (notice the relation between “consume” and consummate”) and able to live off of them.

The meat of a wild animal being hunted would last you for months of sustenance, and its preparation also a process taking a long time.

All of these are things that keep you connected with the memory and the living world, to the cycle of taking-a-life-eating-remembering-dying-being-eaten, that eventually gives meaning to consuming animals.

Both the artist and the hunter can put themselves in touch with the things they consume, and thus enjoy meaning in what they bring inside their existence.

Most of us living in the modern west have distanced ourselves so completely from what we consume that we have denied ourselves the joy of understanding, the meaning behind seeing it and producing it ourselves.

We have become what we eat – a joyless being, moving from one meal to another, surrounded by things that have no personal meaning to us, that we did not create or take part in.

4. What the Machine Eats – Our willful Enslavement

The desire to be right and keep your ego intact isn’t just caused by the guilt of killing animals. It is brought on by the feeling of helplessness at the face of the big industrialist machine – the corporatized and alienated world of money in which we now live.

Many of us take it as a given that nothing can be done to change big companies and corporations, since they control the means of production. With western man and woman not knowing how to raise animals or grow their food, they are utterly dependent upon outside companies for their survival. With this kind of slavery, it almost makes sense to choose the biggest and, in fact most distant of food manufacturers, in order to detach oneself from acknowledging this servitude.

The feelings of guilt and ineffectiveness lie at the heart of our discussion of eating meat. That is, people living in cultures that cultivate their own food and raise their animals do not question the validity of their actions. They are close to their origins of sustenance and can account for how their food is made. We in the industrialized west are left in the dark, alienated and remote from the things that we intake and make part of ourselves. We are thus driven to rationalize and make excuses, scientific as they may be, whose purposes are to justify that predicament which we know in our heart makes us so miserable.  

The big companies, of course, know that this is guilt and are happy to exploit it. Corporations that profit off animal torture tend to display the argument in the media as having only two sides: a vegan option on the one side -appearing too hard and fanatical for most people – and a carnivorous one, socially and commercially justified, on the other.

If you look at how the subject has been brought up in the media, it is almost always portraying veganism as a sole counter stance to factory harvesting of animals. Most times the same media outlets are sponsored by one or more big dairy or meat companies that profit from the animal imprisonment.

The reason that we feel so powerless facing the big companies is that we have enslaved all of our social systems, as ourselves, to the power of its capital.

Legal systems in most western societies are basing their rulings concerning animals on utilitarian – meaning how much money they generate – reasons. Animal abusers are sentences to miniscule punishments since we allow larger corporations to do so on a regular basis. Instead, as every human being is naturally inclined to think and feel, animals should be treated as sentient, feeling beings with a capacity for suffering and joy – much like small children, in their defenselessness against humans.

In very much the same way, the political sphere, the public sphere and any type of discourse we allow to reach a mass audience is still very much in denial or silent (meaning – dishonest) about animal suffering. This is a moment in time in which people have the obligation to demand what they know is right, and act upon it.

In fact, what the large corporations are afraid of, as is any politician, lawmaker and public figures, are large groups of people making similar actions. Affecting how much money goes into the industry has a domino effect that affects all other walks of life concerning animals and ourselves.

Since it is money that affects how society treats animals, we can and should take action by pulling our money from torture companies and placing it where we can get our food and allow animals the dignity and safety they deserve from us.

The industrial farm system is appalling yet despite its machinations there are effective ways to make it stop. It is sustained by the money poured into it – as is anything in the capitalist sphere – it needs capital in order to grow. Spending our money somewhere else is the best way to have a saying where big companies are involved.

5. Stopping the Machine – Ways of Action

Here are a few possible solutions that would change the course of industrial farming within several years.

In order to prevent animal torture, one can:

  1. Buy from a small, local farms, which guarantee their animals a place to range free, and live a life closest to its natural habitat.
  2. Learn how to cultivate and grow food and raise animals by yourself. Raising a small number of animals in the space and conditions they require for a good life is a way of eliminating the power of grow farms and reconnecting with how mankind consumed meat through most of history.
  3. If there is plentiful free range animals where you live with a legal option to do so, hunting is one way of not taking part in industrial farming. It also acknowledges animals as free to roam and is the least wasteful of all manners of attaining animals for eating.
  4. Cutting down in any shape possible – with so many other plant based sources of nourishment today, eating less animal meat, let alone animals from industry farms, is better for them with its side effects being a boost to your health.
  5. Stopping eating meat. The choice that many people are already taking these days, severely hurting the slaughter industry and raising the numbers of plant-based options by thousands of percents.

This change should also generate the creation of an agreement system, in which small growers and sellers of food realize that any attempt to monopolize by returning to mass slaughtering will lead to people stop buying from them and to discontinue their business.

The social and financial “side effects” of these actions are enormous, including helping local businesses and destroying mass-scale slaughter companies. It is a way of bringing about ecological recuperation and even assisting in ending hunger, by taking the power away from food monopolies and cartels.

Health benefits will undoubtedly rise as well. With the torturing of animals stopping, the auxiliary industries which sustain imprisoned animals with their drugs will cease to gain money, which will benefit the health of humans consuming animal meat.

The biggest effects of this change would be in our regaining our own humanity, as well as our connection with our natural surroundings. We will no longer be quibbling over justifying the eating of animals but will be taking command of our actions.

We will finally be able to look at ourselves, and at the animals around us, as deserving a decent life together.

The Benefits of Coronavirus – a short story



On a day like any other.

I’ll take the dogs out for a walk. I’ll get back home and give them their food, get

ready for the rest of the day, you know?

I’ll take a shower, get dressed and put on the mask and gloves before going


I’ll look in the mirror before stepping out.

Nothing memorable, not with the mask on anyways.

It will be a bit warm outside, now being summer.

The mask is a bit uncomfortable, but at least it keeps people from staring.

I don’t think about being jumped by police or paying a fine for spreading diseases. At least if I’m a hypocrite for wearing it, so is everybody else.

I need money so I go into the bank. It’s a bit crowded since they reopened just now. Even outside there is a small line, with everyone dutifully awaiting to get their temperature checked.

All are masked, anxious, yet docile and seem tired and indifferent. The masks equalize and us them faceless. The new uniform of the masses.

I await in line until I scram forth to reach the guard. He checks my temperature with an infrared thermometer. It takes just a second and he lets me through. I catch the smiling wrinkles around his eyes. We are co-conspirators in this charade.

It’s always the busiest just before the weekend, when people are in a hurry to deposit their weekly salaries. There are five tellers all at it, with people more silent than usual, hoping to get it over with and maybe getting to rid themselves of the masks as soon as possible.

A few people in front of me, I scour the place. All are masked. Some clenching pieces of paper, most lean over to stare at their phone, as if their eyes are ready to dive into a deep pool. Every so often the number counter would change with a ‘ting’, causing several heads to lift, and then let out a sigh muffled by the mask, and the head would return to its previous downward slant right back into their phones.

I reached into my pocket to feel for the piece of paper which was my own to display that day. It was resting there, sure enough.

Several people were on the phone speaking a bit loudly. I stood there listening to them describing their most private affairs with the greatest of ease, as if they were entertaining a friend in their home. I could scarcely recall a time when such a thing was considered as rude, or even strange, behavior. The fact that you are able to do something doesn’t mean that you should do it, should you? I felt like I wasn’t alone thinking this, but that everyone else were in silent agreement, staring into their phones, thinking they are able to use them as distraction, and so they should do it.

The line of people grows shorter. The bank had conveniently made people wait in a single line that split off when you got to the end into whichever teller in one of the five stations was ready to help you. A nice way of moving the line quickly and having it all done with in a hurry.

I dislike being hurried most of the times, but here it seemed like a relief in a way. I even didn’t care for the line being long. What usually was tedious though, was thinking which teller would you get and how cranky, or unprofessional they struck you. With masks on they all seemed perfectly similar in their indifference. All equally unconcerned with your business and all likewise less prone to pass judgment.

I was now first in line and it seemed like it would come down to either a young brunette teller, which was finishing up with an overweight couple, whose sweaty t-shirts and pink puffed necks she was probably eager to let go; and an equally young oriental gentleman who was assisting an elderly woman. For the last minute or so, he was no longer looking into his computer monitor, and stared straight at the old lady, who was perhaps done with her transactions but didn’t seem to internalize the reality of that fact.

The couple slowly palmed a stash of bills which the brunette had laid in front of them, and commenced a triumphant exit, as if headed to celebrate with some food. I waited for the teller to look at me so to not barge in, as some people rudely do.

She took a few seconds to search for my eyes in the line, and gave a bewildered stare. I figured most people probably just go ahead and enter her line of sight without being called, like a conveyor belt of characters, just stepping into a slot. And now I was the odd one out for not applying this norm. I hurried to take my piece of paper out of my pocket so to not waste any time.

The teller’s eyes glazed over me as I stood there. I slipped to paper underneath the glassy screen and allowed her to read it. She took a few seconds and then looked at me, as if searching for something in my eyes.

She was nice looking, or at least the top half of her face was, which was not hidden behind a piece of cloth. It took her another minute to count the money and put on the counter. She also handed  me back my note.

Her eyes were now looking straight at me, a look I became used to receiving, a kind of alertness mixed with contempt. I had almost grown fond of it by now.

I thanked her and said “have a nice day”, which, while utterly banal as a saying, still feels like a common courtesy to me, which is why I don’t hesitate to use it whenever I bid goodbye to someone who is doing any service for me.

I went out of the bank and walked steadily home, making sure to pass through a few of the more busy streets, just in case I was being followed. I passed through the square, where the police had camped out to discourage people from walking about without a mask. I strutted besides them as if showcasing how good of a citizen I am to be wearing both a mask and a pair of gloves.


I got back home and counted the money I got. Then, I wrapped it again and went over to the bedroom and opened the closet. “Safe within a safe” I muttered, and threw it in with the rest of the week’s profits.

I took out the crumpled piece of paper from my right jacket pocket. I’ve written it with a black marker on top of a piece of some legal notices I picked off of the ground. Nothing flashy, but looks strikingly similar to your everyday bullshit bank notice. On top of it I had scribbled this lovely message:

“Please remain quiet. I have a gun and this is a robbery.

Put all the MONEY in your register into this bag – NOW

Do not call the police – or I will shoot”

I didn’t think much of it, except that I wanted something to get the tellers to do what I want without time to think. What got me thinking how easy it could be was watching everybody wearing masks and not looking at what anyone else was doing. It’s as if people willfully became deaf, blind and dumb. And so I would be dumb to not use it to my advantage.

I needed the money, who the hell doesn’t. And this was perfect. Nobody suspected a thing, not with my mask and gloves, which made sure I left no fingerprints there. I couldn’t be identified anywhere, not by anyone watching the surveillance footage, not by people on the street, and not by the teller herself. With everyone wearing masks now, I was free to walk unnoticed, a loose criminal in the disguise of an every-man.