Phantom hunger

And ghostbusting as a political act

Phantom hunger


It happens now and then. I have a few bites of food left. I consult my stomach. I’ll regret eating the rest. I eat the rest.


There’s a level of consumption that maximizes profit, and that level is “as much as we can consume while being able to work.” It’s by no means a healthy amount, but obviously corporations are not going to respond to this by changing the system. They’re going to change us; they’re going to engineer better consumers.

They have us doing some of this work for them. Consumption is now something that we will, in the same breath, denounce as the root of all evil and then treat as a salve for that evil, and one that no one should be denied for any reason. In any given moment, refraining from consuming does feel futile as an act of resistance. New corporations will take the place of boycotted ones. The state of the world will deteriorate whether you eat those last four bites or not. But the realms in which this isn’t futile have less to do with the state of the world and more to do with the state of you.


The quality of the time we each have left depends on many things. Our choices are some of them.

Those who wish to shape you into better livestock treat those choices as a battleground. Over many generations they’ve further injected themselves into countless moment-to-moment decisions we make about how we treat our bodies and spend our time. They nudge us to eat those last few bites and watch those extra few episodes. Our patterns of thought and desire have shifted in response, but subtly. We don’t feel like addicts watching our limbs reach out for drugs against our wishes; we remain under the illusion that it’s us and us alone, passively drifting toward laziness and impulsiveness.

I saw a photo of a protest sign that said, “Is it really easier to believe 150,000,000 people are too lazy than 400 people are too greedy?” This is individually applicable. It’s more than your own finger on the “increase speed” button of your hedonic treadmill. An extension of this is the pressure we increasingly feel to be available, or in a way consumable, 24/7. You do not have to. You did not invent the cell phone and we all bought one knowing it has an off button. The worst people on Earth are leaning into this publicly while protecting their peace privately. You have every right and every reason to stop them from exploiting and trashing the only profitable frontier they have left, i.e. your mind.


The larger of my two dogs is black and white. He sheds enough that if you rub your hand in a circle on any carpeted surface in the house you produce a thin clump of his hair. It’s always gray.

Once we’ve consumed something it no longer matters how much of our decision to do so came from our desires versus cultural nudges. The damage is done. The dog hair is gray. Before that, we can ask: is this food really good enough to merit the stomach ache? Will I really enjoy scrolling more than the other thing I was doing? The answer may be yes. The point is to reclaim the decision for ourselves. The point is to reclaim time, attention, and energy from faceless entities that take much more of these things than they give.