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A concept pioneered by John Nash as a way of alleviating his schizophrenia, and a useful concept for the chronically lucid as well. The idea is to simply not dwell on groundlessly disturbing subjects outside one's control or expertise: for instance, his restriction was not to worry unduly about world politics, a subject that had heretofore caused him great anxiety and was the grounds for many delusional speculations.

Translated into a discipline for the sane, I would say that The Matrix, The X-Files, and many urban legends are the mental equivalent of junk food: like junk food, they provide strong, direct sensations, and can sometimes fill you up, but don't provide any real mental stimulation. By identifying with Neo and Mulder, even for entertainment, the viewer has a sense of empowerment: all those stories about the Evil Government are true, and knowlege is power. The downside of this is that after the show is over, the viewer feels even less powerful than before, since after all, they can't directly challenge The Cigarette-Smoking Man or those Men in Black, but must simply go on with living inside a reality that seems even more pointless and dull than before. Remedying the situation by filling up your head with details about the show or worse, actual conspiracy theories and UFO sightings gives the same empty feeling after awhile: the more you think you've got the answer, the less you can actually DO anything about it...even less now, since They won't bother listening to you.

What broke that cycle for me was simply not to watch those kinds of shows, and to refuse to discuss them, even as "masterpieces of video/cinematic art". (After all, that same flashy technique was used in a GAP ad.) I also embarked on an "informational campaign", reading all I could about espionage, think tanks and the like, buttressing these with readings from established media about international affairs. I even took an online seminar with RAND! I can't say that I'm in the corridors of power, but I certainly do have more people's attention, and can back up my statements with something more than "well, that's what they want you to think". It's also gotten me to thinking and writing about far more interesting subjects than simply griping about how They should act like sugardaddies and gimme some of what they have. Try it. You might like it too.

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