Blue-Light Induced Nightmare

A Book Review by Jack Reuter

            A dark age of passivity looms ominously over the once illumined consciousness of the
people; the prophesized Orwellian docility of the masses can no longer be discredited as a
dystopian implausibility. And now a new foe has arisen, as neoliberalism’s insatiable quest for
economic dominance has led capitalism to create a nefarious 24/7 cycle of work and
consumption that has rendered humanity helplessly hypnotized into a stupor of compliance.
Humanity’s right to an unburdened and recuperating sleep remains the final obstacle in
capitalism’s quest for 24/7 work and consumption. The 24/7 cycle exposes humanity to a
constantly vulnerable and fragile state, which forces upon its subjects no choice but to
integrate seamlessly into the 24/7 cycle or risk falling behind in the eternal race to the top as
a fear of failure and alienation dominates the psyche.


            No aspect of the human experience can be replicated or even begin to mimic the
essentiality of sleep in the role it plays in daily life. No reprieve remains as constant and
therapeutic, if only temporarily, as sleep. Sleep acts as a shield from the harshness of the 24/7
cycle humans are exposed to. As Jonathan Crary states in his work 24/7,


Crucial is the dependence on the safekeeping of others for the revivifying carelessness
of sleep, for a periodic interval of being free of fears, and for a temporary ‘forgetfulness
of evil’ (28).


            Capitalism’s demand for work and consumption inherently produces the social sufferings
alluded to by Crary; sleep however acts as a boundary, a momentary forgetfulness of the ills
one faces at the hands of the catastrophic ideology of neo liberalism. Humanity is left
scrambling, trapped in a cycle devoid of intrinsic meaning, where one is defined by a ruthless
dualism involving either working too much or begrudgingly purchasing products to help
create a false identity of material prominence and happiness in an attempt to deny their
spiritual death.


            The direct avoidance and refusal of participation in the 24/7’s perpetuity has
unforeseen consequences that project fears of social irrelevance and economic ineptitude
upon the psyche. When one consciously attempts to liberate oneself from the confines of the
24/7 cycle, what was originally regarded as an idealistic personal removal becomes soured, as
one is met with intense social and economic pressures, which many reluctantly succumb to.
As Crary states,


Submission to these arrangements is near irresistible because the portent of social and
economic failure-- the fear of falling behind, of being deemed outdated. The rhythms of
technological consumption are inseparable from the requirements of continual self-
administration. Every new product or service presents itself as essential for the
bureaucratic organization of one’s life (46).


            The 24/7’s all encompassing rule creates a new form of extra economic coercion, where the
threat of removal from the cycle remains as oppressive as the direct participation in the cycle.
What results from this coercion is a large number of subjects dwelling passively in a liminal
space, somewhere between avoidance and participation, and in the end, no matter how
strongly opposed, one still remains affected by the 24/7’s authoritative rule, whether one is
participating willingly or not.


            The cycle of work and consumption has become so relentless, that an ironic issue has
resulted; humans now must buy their sleep. Overwhelmed by the stresses and anxieties of the
24/7 cycle, an insomniac condition develops where one cannot sleep due to worry, and one
must tranquilize themselves in order to acquire the adequate amount of sleep to prepare for
the monotonously repetitive, soul-crushing cycle of work. Crary states,


All of the encroachments on it create the insomniac conditions in which sleep must be
bought. Statistics of soaring use of hypnotics show that, in 2010, around fifty million
Americans were prescribed compounds like Ambien or Lunesta, and many millions
more bought over the counter sleep products (18).

 

            Capitalists have successfully commoditized humanity’s last safe haven, so even if an
individual’s sleep hasn’t been exploited outright, a profit can still be turned, which in turn
adds to the girth of the capitalists engorged belly that disgustingly protrudes over their belts,
full from its voracious quest for economic dominance as it eradicates and infiltrates
humanity’s last standing social defense.


            In previous generations, the sanctity of sleep had gone undisturbed, however, now
with the invention and integration of the smartphone, humanity’s once romantic dreamscape
has now turned into a blue-light induced nightmare that permanently violates the paradise of
sleep. The capitalists provide their consumers with the perfect tool to firmly establish the
24/7 nature of capitalism as an eternal law. Zombie-like faces stare into a glaring abyss,
shopping eternally, as if they were doomed just as Sisyphus was, yet instead of being bound by a boulder they’re bound by an online shopping cart. The smartphone has seamlessly
eradicated barriers of consumption that had previously stood in the capitalists way. Stores
now exist in an incorporeal region untouched by night where closing hours don’t apply and
consumption never ceases. As Crary states, “The planet becomes reimagined as a nonstop
work site or an always open shopping mall of infinite choices, tasks, selections, and
digressions. Sleeplessness is the state in which producing, consuming, and discarding occur
without pause, hastening the exhaustion of life and the depletion of resources” (17). The
smartphone had been advertised as a tool of liberation, invented to bring humanity to a new
frontier of knowledge. Yet in the hands of the capitalist it acts as a digital form of slavery, each
click serving as another link on the heavy chains that bind humanity in the inescapable 24/7
cycle.

            The fiendish ideology of neoliberalism has successfully inculcated the masses into the
belief that an unimpeded cycle of 24/7 work and consumption remains as unchanging and
eternal as the natural laws that dictate the function of the universe. Now indistinguishable
from divine law, 24/7’s relentless rule will proceed in crushing humanity’s last safe haven of
sleep and social solace. Humanity now resides on the precipice of an age of darkened
consciousness, where no light is permitted but that of the shining demigod forms of
technology that illuminate the complacent and docile faces of generations to come.

Jack Reuter is an HCC Alumnus

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