Western society and the individual.
From the moment we leave the womb our actions on this earth are accounted for, it seems to me that real individualism is dying, and our society is the judge, jury, and executioner. Nobody notices or cares however, because most people are far too busy gratifying themselves or making money, our modern society has been sown on the seeds of over indulgence. In our age of advanced technology, spiritual destruction has never been more prevalent. Our cultural life (the cultural life of the masses), and its internal dialogue and discourse have dissolved into nothing more than a series of perpetual platitudes.
The real irony of this disgusting display is the fact that people believe the opposite to be the case, everyone thinks they are real individuals, everyone thinks they're free. We're free alright, we're free to feed at the trough of cultural mediocrity, and free to drown in a sea of worthless amusements.
Orwell was wrong, Huxley was right, we will not be deprived of the necessary informantion, rather, we will be flooded with so much vacuous drivvle or cultural garbage that we won't notice or care what the necessary information has to say. We won't be locked in some Soviet style Gulag, or taken to the ministry of truth to be re-educated, we will be made to like and enjoy our cages, we will be made content with our servitude, we will be fed an endless supply of worthless information in the form of entertainment (like the Soma of Huxley's brave new world, if you will), and anyone who feel's a little uneasy can easily medicate themselves with Prozac (actual Soma of Huxley's brave new world, if you will), all this will be done to titillate and tantalise us into passivity.
In case some of you are thinking this sounds like some conspiracy theory involving a big evil group of elites with a coherent ideology designed to appeal to our worse tendencies, think again, this is no conspiracy theory, this is the reality of what has become of western culture in the modern day, and we have only ourselves to blame.
You may consider this a complete over dramatisation, or a form of gradiose hyperbole; you may view it as overly pessimistic, or you may think it is unnecessary whining, and there may be some truth to those positions, but you can't deny that our world is headed in this direction. Huxley wrote "a brave new world" in 1932, and he wote an article entitled "a brave new world revisted" in 1958 in order to document how his vision for society was progressing. He concluded that the world was becoming like "Brave New World" much faster than he originally thought. While its impossible to say what the future holds, the signs are certainly ominus, also, this is in no way an attempt to demonise technology. Technology could (and is in some sectors of society) be used to make our culture and discourse more vibrant, conscientious, and novel than any that has ever existed.
We live in the cave. We believe that all we see is all there is, that all we do is all we can do, that what we live is all we can do. By seeing ourselves as shadows on the wall, we throw our individuality away: a shadow is not unique, it's simply an absence of light. We live the same lives, and when someone breaks the mold, we either push them out of society, label them mad, reject them, or worship them as revolutionary. We live in denial: the average person knows nothing of what's going on around them, how to live a happy life, or even what they want.
A possible reason I have for this is economics, the consumerism, this obsession with economic output that the Western world has. An economic system is nothing more than a system of allocating resources to where fulfill wants and needs. Yet we live in a world where we could end the majority of world hunger with what we throw away, where we have more than 5x more empty houses than homeless (in the US), where selfishness and greed pay better than kindness and charity.
This has two effects that I feel are relevant. 'Producers' look to produce as much as they can, and 'consumers' look to consume as much as they can. Producers create demand where there is none, where goods help nothing, creating systems that breed unhappiness for their own profit. It is more efficient for them to put people into unhappiness, and when every company realizes this, people have no other roads to go. Look at the music industry, look at sweatshops, companies make (more) money off of destroying culture, or destroying souls, trying making everything simple and easy and the same for them. And the consumers lap it up. They work for less and less, they follow a group mentality, they are their own worse enemies. We let it happen. The efficiency, the focus on maximum output of companies, forces people to live a specific way of life, to all be the same, to lose who we really are.
359 days ago
Do you feel, garry, that we are coming from a age of greater spiritual enlightenment, freedom, and individualism? It seems we must've had these things at one point to have them taken from us, but when I look back in history I don't generally see societies and cultures that are more individually enlightened than what we have today. I just see people, like ourselves, doing the best with what they're given and I think even if history produced a society that valued individualism and freedom more highly than we do today if that society found itself in modern times it would follow our lead in short order.
I think people accept modern culture because it's easier and more entertaining than anything the past has produced, and I'm not convinced that's a bad thing. If life is supposed to have some greater meaning, perhaps we are wasting our time socializing or watching TV or dicking around in the internet, but I haven't found any greater meaning, only an overriding notion that none of this really matters so I may as well enjoy myself while it happens.
What are we to do? Are we supposed to seek pleasure elsewhere? Not seek it at all? Are we supposed to overthrow our masters? Would that put us in a better place than we are now?
I suppose I don't see how I can act any more the individual than I already do. I accept or deny the things that my culture dumps on me on an individual basis, even though some of my actions are very much those of the norm (my job, for example). Following the beaten path is sometimes necessary to integrate well with a culture (for example, having a job allows me to pay rent, thus giving me a place to sleep at night; like Bukowski I would rather not work, but not working has consequences, and for me the con of homelessness outweighs the pro of spare time). But when I come home from work I never feel I've worked to service some greater good, I worked because I know it means money in my bank account shortly thereafter. I think this kind of attitude differentiates from the notion of people today being mindless, uniform zombies on a corporate treadmill, or what have you.
359 days ago
that we are coming from a age of greater spiritual enlightenment,
I wonder if spiritual enlightenment is even a good thing...
I mean, what about Atheism being on the rise? Would that be considered the "death of individuality" just because we don't believe in spirits or meaning?
And you're absolutely right.
359 days ago