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A Small Medium at Large – Galen Chadwick

“The relationship between the use of language and the induction of trance states might be one of the keys to understanding life in the last years of the technology millennium.  What if we’re all in a trance, and have been given hypnotic suggestions to ignore the evidence that we are in a trance?  As we stumble around, bedazzled, enormous machines eat the earth.  How would we treat people who try to tell us that we need to wake up?”  – Howard Rheingold

A rural store is unique.  It serves as a nexus of overlapping time frames, where generations bump together in ways that can resemble a psychological mirror ball.  In my past three columns, I offer snapshots of life taken in Roy’s Store in New Dora, Missouri. The story’s set in the year 2038, a time when a scattered people are caught up with the resettlement economies of their boomtown communities. 

My thinking about the future began with making a list of some orienting questions: “What kind of lifestyle would people prefer to experience? What characteristics would distinguish those communities that remain intact through a period of societal collapse? What are the small pleasures of life that we must absolutely pass down to our kids, no matter what?”

Well, the first thing to be realized is we must agree to maintain our accustomed levels of chocolate and coffee consumption. History tells us that the wheels of democracy will grind to a halt without them.  Therefore, keeping the good stuff pouring in from distant shores, even in times of a systems collapse, must set the bar for normalcy. Get the beans and you’ve probably got everything else covered. 

In any community worth its salt (another commodity that will likely be traded for gold), people will possess a finely-honed awareness of environmental balance.  This makes me think of the early salt traders who caravaned up to Springfield from the Gulf.  They camped under the bluff at the ghost town of Larissa, at Crystal Springs, which once had a dance hall and now’s just a fading memory.

The Ozarks, of course, has long been home for people who feel drawn apart from, or live ahead of, the zeitgeist of their age.  Some have achieved the goal of simple living and exemplify a true and encompassing notion of our species identity.  Hats off!  When we meet such folks it’s easy to imagine a universal concordance of heart is possible, that a community rich in the simple pleasures of life is within reach.   Maybe peace really could be the definitive creation of our species.   

What ho!  Shall the gentlemen in Booger County now a-bed think themselves accursed that they did not see it coming?  Real men will hold their manhood cheap whiles any tweets of decentralizing the local economy without first securing a consumer supply of happy jolt beans! Yea, should young women be left to toss in sleepless dreams, wondering if there be any young men who will really get cracking on this food freedom business?  

What if thousands of believers, seeing the looming threat, vowed to stand by their neighbors “come what may?” Would these humble intentions multiply until literal fishes and loaves became the public surety of the “North Fork and Bryant watersheds?” 

The folks I interviewed at Roy’s did something similar, found that by coordinating their work and plans, mutual survival became possible. The goal of community preparedness increased their own personal happiness – each morning they woke up smiling. New solutions require moral changes, which become easy, when we decide to include others. 

It’s like those movies where earth is threatened by a rogue meteor with deep seated orbital issues, and we’ve got mere hours to live.  But wait!  There’s hope!  Our politician$ only need to deflect this rock and we can return to solving our own problems without missing a beat!  But this time the meteor turns out to be our own trance programming, now global.  Our hope lies in reframing the paradigm of human consciousness, by exercising our faith together, before the lights go out. 

Given our history of 5,000 years of unremitting conquest and societal collapse, reasonable people could question my basis for optimism.  Long before Darwin came up with the idea of “survival of the fittest”, one mutant economic strategy arose as a procedure for creating scarcity-for-profit. Until then, a different philosophy prevailed and food, the essence of both life and human communion, was shared.  Earlier cultures were profoundly altruistic; the itch to “make money on money” was rightly rejected as social leprosy. But under a hierarchy of lock and key, along with the violence it implies, our temporal prosperity has advanced upon the mental contagion of three lethal memes:

1) The subjugation of nature.

2)Every-man-for-himself competition.

3) The unlimited consumption of resources without personal consequences.

Not surprisingly, the scope of devastation, in which wholesale extinction is now measured by thousands of species each and every day, defies our comprehension.   That we cannot stop, as a people, reveals the extent of the “hypnotic suggestions to ignore the evidence that we are in a trance.” That might explain how a million family farms, the backbone of our freedom to self-govern, have disappeared from Missouri in one lifetime to profit the cynical few.  The U.S. has three days of food in the just-in-time delivery system to feed its cities, (check it out). Our dithering politician$ assure us, with straight faces, that this is perfectly normal.  

The hypnotic induction procedure for stupefying voters is basically just talking, says hypnotist Charles Tart (  The voter is given no drugs, not placed in a special environment, has nothing external done to his brain. And yet, within minutes, the politician can drastically change the universe that his/her supporters live in. With a few words, the citizen can no longer feed himself.  With a few more, the voter hears voices talking when no one is there, telling him it’s his purpose in life to destroy a Donald Trump or a Nancy Pelosi.  

A few more words and the voter can open his eyes and see something no one else can see or, with the right suggestion, ignore a real object in plain sight. Our burning planet, dying oceans, and secret government of hereditary elites have become invisible to him. This same induction procedure is replicated by parents, teachers and religionists, all to better reinforce the death-spiral of our ignorance.

Rheingold writes “what is done to create our ordinary state, and make it persist, is far more intense and intrusive than would be legally allowed someone in the hypnosis profession. The powers in our upbringing – education, religion, politics and electronic media – are brought to bear to induce the norms of ordinary thought and behavior, and they are far stronger than clinical hypnosis. And the trance state which results – in the cultural limitations on our vitality, range of creative thinking, and indeed the distortions of our perception – are by far more powerful.”  

Here’s the definition of consensus trance: “A convenient agreement between humans about which of their perceptions should be admitted to awareness (hence, consensus), then they train each other to see the world in that way and only that way (hence trance).”  The evidence of this collective trance is overwhelming, makes sense to us, but we don’t know what to do about it. Our programming has given us an intellectual framework, without being able to apply it to reveal our personal stratagems of denial. 

Breaking through the trance of the separate self is an age-old challenge.   People must somehow reconnect their hearts and minds to observable reality on their own.  Growing local grains for our daily bread can help us; the agrarian rhythms of life can anchor us in the spirit of mutual appreciation.  Forget about stashing 25 years of food in each basement – it’s about putting new wine in new skins.  

Real self-awareness and real moral authority is urgently necessary – not just the outward form and performance of it. We, as a people, must develop a quality of consciousness that can discern the difference, must realize the higher human potential that our politics and religion promise. To become self-aware means facing the challenge of our waking trance head-on. 

We’re fortunate to be living in a society where we can ask:  “What choices will be left up to me in the aftermath of societal collapse?   If we use the time we have intelligently, to plan and execute a template for whole watershed organization together, the cause for hope remains in our hands. But the work for restoring whole watershed autarchy requires that we’d better start making some major decisions here, start thinking about the need to plan and work together.  Why don’t our elected leaders rally to their duty and calling?  Because the freedom to self-govern is the missing element in our waking-state trance, by design.