Modern Life

A forum post I originally wrote on a topic about suicide. I was much inspired by Lasse Berg’s excellent book Gryning över Kalahari.

The modern life is weird. Thousands, millions individuals living close to each other. Grey urban landscapes of concrete and steel, where neither birds nor silence can be heard, where grass may not be stepped upon, and the horizon and the wandering antilope hordes have disappeared. Time is not measured by the movement of the sun or the seasons, but digitally, on the second. The most social primate of all has adopted an isolated orangutan life, and a hectical one at that. Now, I’m not saying natural=good, but that despite all the flexibility of our species, it is not obvious if a person living all too unnaturally is capable of life.

If human history was boiled down into one year, we have been hunter-gatherers since 1st of January. Suddenly on the morning of the day before New Years’ Eve, we start to live radically different. The transition to agriculture actually decreased our life quality at first. We are adapted to laziness, but now suddenly the human day was filled with hard work during long days. With agriculture we also traded an equal co-existance we knew well with hierarchical order-structures, in bigger and bigger organizations where we rarely meet the people who decide our daily life. Our new existance means the increased atomization of individuals. It is not only in West the large families vanish. Even in Third World cities the daily interactions in the small society disappears. Left are hard-working individuals for who family and friends become a burden, or at least a matter of planning. Moments of silent contemplation disappear in the wake of globalization and rationalization.

That obvious belonging, that you are nice and you just exist, becomes a desperate hunt for dignity and belonging which only qualified prestations can give. We sell ourselves. Our very strongest drive is to belong, to be respected. But our search for the approval of the group can in today’s commercialized society be easily turned towards us when we daily are reminded that we are not good enough, that we are not beautiful or smart, we don’t own the things which means we count. Peer pressure has such a strong impact on us, so strong it can override our will to live. If you don’t belong, you are dead on the inside. Living death is a fate worse than death itself. Bullying, something which in the past was as close to sin you could come, is now something we often see in schools and at work. And then there is the motto of media: “If you aren’t seen, you don’t exist”. Perhaps it is this reasoning which makes people commit suicide by webcam, or what is partly behind the school shootings in America, Finland and elsewhere. To exist for just a short while is better than not existing at all.

It is not possible to turn the clock back and become hunter-gatherers, we are too many, and there are hardly many who would want to. But a long-term solution would be one that is sustainable at least a couple hundred thousand years more. That life will probably look a lot more different than today. Our already incredible technology would give the whole of humanity a good life materially, but above all a good life for our souls. There we will all belong, feel needed and appeciated, and have the ability to show our inner goodness. There are no bullying bosses and frightened servants there. An impossible utopia? Well, maybe. Would be a pity in that case. But it would stop that assembly line of corpses which capitalist realism creates, and be a better way of preventing suicides than propping people full of anti-depressants. Suicides are just the tip of the iceberg of a fundamental flaw in our society.

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2 Responses to “Modern Life”

  1. Blerd Says:

    You know I feel constantly trapped by society and long to reconnect with nature and actually do some work to live.

  2. Dwarf Metropolis « Procrastination Embodied Says:

    […] Procrastination Embodied A Study in the Productive Effects of Procrastination « Modern Life […]

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