by Nala Walla



We are unfortunately all too familiar with the effects of chemicals and pollutants in our air, lakes, streams, groundwater, soils. But how many of us realize that our mental environment has become just as polluted? Adbusters: Journal of the Mental Environment is a magazine that is dedicated to examining the effect of runaway media upon human health. In the 2004 issue “Systematically Distorted Information,” Adbusters points out that the advertising is a $450 billion worldwide industry which exposes the average American to 3,000 commercial messages a day.

All people, especially children, are hardwired to absorb crucial information that arises from the grassroots. For example, messages about which foods to eat and which to avoid, about specific routes to cross mountains or deserts were passed on through songs, memes, rhymes. This information has the ability to sweep across the continent in much the same way as a children’s rhyme moves from coast to coast with no organization, no advertisting, no newspapers, or television.

It is quite natural for us to absorb the information around us. This is why it is not surprising that studies are showing most children in the US cannot identify even five species of plants, but can recognize hundreds of corporate logos!

what happens when the memes no longer rise from the bottom, but ooze down from the top—from ad agencies and PR firms and the commercial mass media? The mindscape is plunged into chaos. …cultural power is dislocated, authenticity and spontaneity lost...Ideas spread not when people interact, but when they switch on their TVs and computers. (Adbusters, Vol.12, No. l).

It is possible that we are being bombarded with so much information, most of it being completely irrelevant to our basic human needs, that it resembles pollution more than it resembles information. This pollution has recently been given a name: infotoxins. Our brains begin to shut down as our mental pasture is overgrazed, and there is no room left for us to receive messages critical to the sustainability of our species. Infotoxins may be just as dangerous to human beings as water or air pollution.

Here, again, is where the bodybased arts can serve us. Improvisational art games require nothing except a few people gathered together, they are fun to play, and they cost nothing. To find entertainment, can choose not to seek out TVs or engage in other consumer activities which expose us to seemingly endless streams of advertisements, and choose instead to entertain ourselves. This frees up valuable “mental real estate” creating much needed open spaces in our minds, leaving room for creative thought instead of the prepackaged version. In practicing the participatory arts, we are literally freeing our minds. And if we play enough, we can cancel the gym membership, too!

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