The opposite of depression is not happiness
Interview that will appear in Vents Magazine

The Empire of Fake

I spent the whole last week visiting family in Wisconsin.  While I have valued the time with my parents and brother, a week in Wisconsin is a vivid reminder of all the reasons I left this Empire of Fake.

In the past week, there were a few moments of peace and simplicity; writing a song sitting in a sunny field, jogging through the corn fields, eating corn on the cobb at a small-town festival.  Those were moments of escape into something that felt more human.  During the rest of my stay, I have felt forced into a form of cloudy non-existence.  I have slept-walked through a branded system of emptiness, thoughtlessness, and of compliance.  My frustration, my disgust, my entire way of thinking is something that is completely foreign in this land of sheep-walkers.  This Empire of Fake is ruled by a form fascism that is designed to destroy our humanity and make us as fake as the system itself.

In this Empire of Fake, all thought has been washed away with sugary soda, diet soda, or watery beer.  Feeling has been choked by moist, fruit-flavored muffins and expensive cheeseburgers.  Experiences have been replaced by brands which tower high above us on enormous signs by sprawling parking lots.  These familiar brands offer us something to do, promise us new feelings, laughter, or memories.  But even these memories are not real because they are not our own.  Fake memories have been implanted into us through obnoxious, persistent advertising.  So we throw what dollars we have left at this black hole of commercialism as though we are trying to plug a damn that is leaking nothing short of our humanity.  All the while, we feel nothing.  We get dumber, fatter, poorer, and older.  In this Empire of Fake, we teach our children nothing because we have no wisdom to offer.

I say "we" because, even though I have escaped this horrible place in my life, I have been unable to escape it while I am here.  I'm spending the weekend in Wisconsin Dells with family.  "The Dells" is touted as the "Waterpark capital of the world" and is Wisconsin's best attempt at a resort town.  I'm sitting on the balcony of an expensive hotel and am looking down on an endless parking lot.  It is an unusually warm, summery day in early September...but we spent the morning in an indoor waterpark because all of the outdoor "activities" are "closed".  But are they closed?  Could we not walk by the lake?  Could we not float down the river in an inner-tube?  Sure we could, but that's not why we have come here.  Realness would feel too strange, too foreign, too impossible to even suggest.  The truth is that we ought not have driven two hours, spent hundreds of dollars, packed our luggage and cars for this.  For what?

This morning was spent at an indoor water park so loud that we had to shout just to communicate.  We floated around a fake "lazy river" with fake rocks meant to look like the real rocks on the real river not far away outside.  There was no sunshine, there were no smells, no birds chirping, no wind blowing through the trees, and no crickets.  Unlike a real river, however, there were lifeguards at each turn.  It was nearly as safe as doing nothing at all.  Interestingly, there is a real river that runs right by my parents house.  Yet everyone insisted that we come here.

The Wisconsin Dells is all about fake.  Theme restaurants, theme parks, even the stone at the entrance of this hotel is plastic.  My 6-year-old nephew pointed this out.  Maybe he thought it was cool.  Fake is cool.  Real is boring.  Except that it isn't.  I want that which is real.  I wish I had the skill or the courage to lead others toward that which is real.

 But here, in this Empire of Fake, it is clear that I am one of a few.  We cannot voice a perspective strong enough to compete with the fake.  We cannot bring back to life people that have been lost to illusions, to toxic pills, to toxic food, and to toxic entertainment.  Synthetic has defeated real.  It is a population that is simply gone, and unfortunately I must leave if I wish to escape it.