It seems to me that we are all, no matter the degree of control we think we’re exacting, just along for the ride. This is true on many levels, in many ways: we’re clinging to a giant rock hurtling through space, tiny insignificant passengers upon the face of a projectile of the gods. In that sense, perhaps one of the more profoundly literal ways to consider the idea, we are unwilling and unwitting passengers, enduring a journey with no destination. The trip will never end, we will never arrive. We will always be passengers.
In another sense, we are political passengers, our vessel (whatever nation you reside in, mine being the U.S.), being commandeered over and over again by opposing factions vying for the final say in where we’re all headed. I sort of think of it like a car being carjacked over and over, first by a dude who wants to drive west and put your kids through college for free, and then by a dude who wants to go east and lock your kids in a church until they’re married off at age 12. One takes your vehicle by getting you really drunk and then just taking your keys, the other one puts a gun in your mouth and starts screaming about the will of his god. Perhaps, in this sense, we are more hostages than passengers. Given this particular context, there may be no real difference.
On an individual scale, we are the passengers of our own perception, being led along various twisting paths by our own internal compasses and the ceaseless nudgings of those around us – our friends and loved ones and bosses and heroes and representatives and neighbors are constantly, through intentional and unintentional pushes and pulls, directing the courses of our lives for us. Free choice is a real thing, but most of us make those free choices only after considering the impact they will have on any number of other people. In this way, we are often (though not always) passengers to the wild currents of personal interactions and social pressures.
Really, though, we’re all just brains (I’m gonna go ahead and assume the brain is where consciousness resides) being carried around in meat sacks at the whims of chemical interactions. We call it a bunch of other more scientific sounding things, or else we pretty it up with poetry and prose, but really we are vast colonies of cells and micro-organisms being ferried around by the emergent properties of human thought and instinct, tiny motes of self-replicating machines playing passenger to the minds of gods.
And on and on and on….