From the perspective of the underclass, material reality is bleak. You’re a survivor of blind evolution, stranded on a muddy rock under the harsh glare of a nuclear sun. Beyond that is an infinite universe of inert matter, dust and devastating radiation that is neither for nor against you, but simply unaware of your existence. There is no God. There is no heaven, or eternal reward. There is only another shift in the factory, or the call centre, or McDonald’s — if you’re lucky. At its determinist extreme, materialist philosophy enforces a strikingly rigid and oppressive social hierarchy.
Faced with your own inferiority in this hierarchy, why wouldn’t you plunge into fantasy? Invest your hopes in the teleporter caprices of reality TV, where faux victory in The X Factor or The Apprentice can raise you to the neon-lit stratosphere of celebrity. Light up a spliff and switch on your Xbox. Lose yourself in the colourful pages of comic books. Fulfil your dreams of being beautiful, wealthy, heroic — the centre of a universe built just for you! — and ignore the world beyond your bedsit, in which you are underpaid, unloved and anonymous. But all the while these escapist fantasies are fed by an industry that seeks merely to commodify our dreams and then sell them back to us, stripped of meaning, emptied of the true potential of human imagination. We remain in jail, only dreaming of freedom.