In fantasy stories and role-playing games, “cold iron” is a particular kind of metal that’s harmful to Faeries. Since this special iron is so dense and banal, ethereal and magical creatures like the Faeries feel weak and sickly in its presence. If a Faerie is wounded by a cold iron weapon, their wound will not heal properly. Cold iron is also resistant to Faerie magic, making it the perfect tool for creating a world in which the enchanting, creative, dreamy qualities of the Fae are banished from human sight.
For a long time now, I’ve felt as though the world we live in, especially here in the Heartland of the American Empire, is built on a foundation of cold iron. This cold iron cage offers us a great deal of stability, security, and prosperity that many other war-torn and impoverished nations may or may not look to with jealous eyes. The truth, though, is that there is a growing divide between the few who hold most of the wealth and the many who linger in relative poverty. All of our hopes and dreams of being a role model for democracy and freedom are shackled by the cold iron chains of racism, sexism, homophobia, ecocide, and the like. And at the end of the day, the icing on the cake is that the entire system is held in place not by brute force, but by social engineering and economic coercion. In other words, the Empire goes about its dirty business because we “choose” to allow it. But is it really a choice, or is it the result of billions of dollars worth of social conditioning? Even though many of us may be free in our bodies, we are still kept in chains by our growing tendency to let the corporations and the government do our thinking and dreaming for us.
To me, this is the greatest sorrow of our society — a sorrow that perhaps only the Fae can truly appreciate, since it is they who have the greatest love for the beauty of our hopes, our dreams, our passions, and our fantasies. We have given our capacity for dreaming over to the corporations, and they have left us with a grey inner landscape devoid of the rainbow colors of any genuine sense of wonder, inspiration, and freedom. They have taken our hearts and filled them with banal aspirations toward earning a few more dollars, paying off our debts, getting a slightly better health care plan, enjoying a few Disney films, and ultimately devoting our lives to the service of the Empire. They’ve taught us to trade our time and our dreams for a few measly copper coins, and our freedoms for the cold iron cage of authoritarian security. And in the end, they tell us that we have no one to blame but ourselves for any material, emotional, or spiritual poverty that this lifestyle leads to.
At least in a crude authoritarian society, the banality is external — a cruel, unthinking brute who will hurt us for disobeying the will of the Leader. Our society, however, is currently under the sway of the most advanced and comprehensive social engineering efforts in human history. Modern technology allows repeated messages of patriarchy, militarism, heterosexism, racism, ecocide, and the like to be woven together through multiple forms of media such as TV, radio, movies, music, Internet, and beyond. This creates a multimedia environment that follows us from cradle to grave, telling us who we are, how to think, how to act, how to live, what to believe, and even what to dream, all in the service of the corporate and government “leaders” who hope to extract power and profit from us.
What could be more banal than that? An entire inner landscape devoted not to our genuine dreams and passions, but rather to the profits of the few. It’s as though someone took the entire Amazon rainforest and leveled it simply to build an empty parking lot.
And so, I feel the cold iron surrounding me, and surrounding all of us, suffocating our capacity to color outside of the lines, live a different life, and dream of a better world. When you have an authoritarian standing in front of you with a cold iron weapon, you at least have a chance of recognizing that your freedom is being denied you. But when your whole social reality is a cold iron cage, and every audio and visual cue tells you that you need to conform and perform for the Empire in order to survive, then you begin to lose your inner capacity to hope, to dream, to long for a better world where true freedom is your birthright and your reality. And if you truly can’t dream of any life other than the cold, banal routine of work, school, and conformity that has been laid out for you by your teachers, your bosses, and your neighbors, then you have lost even the hope of one day finding your way to freedom.
When humanity ceases to dream, to embrace its passions, to envision a world of magic and wonder just beyond the horizon, then what hope is there for a life of true freedom? If our only source of inspiration and imagination lies in the movies and TV shows churned out for us by the corporations, then how can we ever find our way to a world where life is about more than the cold cash of corporate profit?
These are questions that I often ask myself… and at times, these questions are very depressing. In fact, I would go so far as to say that my physical tiredness and thinness are at least partially a result of the strain that this “cold iron” of the Empire has placed upon my body and my heart. I am Fae at heart, and I can feel myself withering in the presence of the banality that is Corporate America. I feel such ecstatic love for the people around me that it leaves me feeling sad and sick inside to see so many of them searching for some sort of inspiration, and fascination, and renewed sense of hope and meaning that they just can’t seem to find in shopping malls, and dead-end jobs, and remakes of movies that weren’t even that good in the first place. It makes me even sadder to see the larger number who aren’t even searching anymore. And in the moments when I can see beyond the effects of this banality on my fellow community members, I find myself looking out into the world only to realize that the Empire is marching forward in our name, wielding the cold iron weapons of corporate exploitation and military domination in order to reshape the entire world in the service of our endless consumerism and obedience to corporate dominance.
Cheery stuff, eh? The good news, I suppose, is that the same qualities that make this Empire so good at manipulating people are also the qualities that leave it so open to change. The whole system of media dominance and social indoctrination is set up to ensure that our very hopes and dreams fall into line with the dull grey paths that the corporations and government have laid out for us. In other words, the key strength of the system is that it mostly relies on controlling our inner landscape rather than using brute force to demand our obedience. The trick, then, is to break free of their oppressive mental and spiritual influence… to learn how to discover our own hopes and dreams again, independent of what the corporations and government tell us that we want or need. If we can do this, then their spell over us is broken, and they must either fall back on brute force to control us or simply accept the fact that we are finally free.
Isn’t it interesting that the future of humanity, and the future of life as we know it, may depend on reawakening our power to hope and dream? Of course, dreaming alone will not be enough. Once we’ve pieced together the common aspects of our visions for a new society, we’ll need to apply our passion and our discipline to the task of making those visions a reality. In the end, though, it all starts with a vision… with a moment of inspiration in which we realize that another world truly is possible, and in fact has already begun, even when surrounded by the banality of the existing systems of control. Once we truly realize this, we have cast aside the heaviest cold iron shackle holding us back from our path to freedom. Once we have reclaimed our ability to dream a dream that takes us beyond the cold confines of what the corporations and government have laid out for us, we have truly reclaimed our freedom. And once we learn to work together in pursuit of the dreams that we share, the world will become a place of beauty unlike anything that most of us can currently imagine.
So, in spite of the fact that so much time and energy and money has been thrown into the task of manipulating and limiting our hopes and dreams, there is still a chance for us to find our path to freedom. As we dance, and sing, and write, and read, and organize for a better tomorrow, the cold iron bars that lock us in the dungeons of Empire will bend and crack. There may be moments of chaos and confusion as the old structures collapse, but together, we can build a shared reality that embodies a more genuine spirit of freedom and cooperation.
This is my dream… and in time, if it’s a dream that many people share, it may very well become a reality. If any of this makes sense to you, let me know… and together, maybe we can find our way to the next revolution.