Have you noticed that movies these days are largely remakes of old films or television programs? Does it seem incomprehensible that hundreds of television channels are broadcasting reruns of classic shows, reality shows, or what-passes-for-news shows?
Annie Le Brun’s book The Reality Overload supports the theory that there is a dearth of imagination and creativity in the world today. She blames this lack of originality on the avalanche of commercially-driven information that bombards our minds daily, leaving little room or motivation for inspiration to flourish. In the translator’s foreword, Jon E. Graham tells us that Le Brun “has chosen to confront the invasive power of a willfully more finite concept of reality, one that uses verbosity and oxymoron to cement its dominance.” Confront it she does, throughout this thought-provoking and powerfully conceived book.
Le Brun is perhaps best known for her membership in the French Surrealists. Poet, essayist, critic, she challenges the reader to join the revolt against the homogenization of culture and mind. She asks us,
“…why are there no longer any adolescents wild enough to instinctively refuse the sinister future that is being prepared for them? Why are there no longer any young people impassioned enough to stray beyond the restricted vistas that they are taught to mistake for life? Why are there no longer any individuals determined enough to oppose by all possible means the system of cretinization from which our era draws its consensual strength?” Why, indeed?
The most obvious culprit is the media, that very form that provides so little substance or entertainment, and yet from which we can’t (and don’t try to) escape. Throughout this recent presidential campaign, many of us sat transfixed in front of the glowing screen as ‘journalists’ speculated endlessly about topics as inane as the choice of candidates’ clothing. There was little news provided, just as there was nothing of note in the ongoing coverage of Paris Hilton’s legal escapades. Still, we sat and watched. Are we so empty that we willingly fill our minds with regurgitated rubbish rather than face the vacuum? “It is as if we have forgotten who we are…” says Le Brun. “…this disappearance of dream is one of the greatest deficiencies of the end of the millennium….”
But visual media is not the single culprit in this crime against the essence of humanity. Le Brun cites the mindless consumption of food that is not food, and religion that is not spiritual. More specifically, she points to the language that entices us to believe that artificial flavors are nourishment and that fear-based dogmas are faith. She refers to this as an “operation to subvert language,” a systematic attempt that is “hoodwinking us as to the actual nature of the reality overload.” Artificial words compel us to behave in ways that are clearly detrimental to our species, to ourselves as individuals, to our world – and yet we do nothing to tear ourselves away from a conspiracy to eradicate free will and enable our inherent vision:
“…this synthetic language is manufactured to eliminate… the portion of night that certain words can still transport as contraband…. Like user instructions diffused continuously as subtitles, it tells us what we should think and feel.”
We are willing participants in this world where make-believe money is bandied about by corporations and governments who make blatantly false promises that we pretend to believe. We live in 1984, and while we know that 2 plus 2 does not equal 5, it is far easier to go along with that false statement than to challenge it. There is a sense of helplessness and hopelessness that comes with the loss of vision, but Annie Le Brun is not giving in. The Reality Overload is a battle cry against the apathy and despair that paralyzes us.