All the life has been sucked out of our economy in the last few decades, and somehow we do not know what to do about it. Maybe that is because we are socialized into accepting our lives in modern society as an endless series of over-controlled disasters. By the time you get to the end of the day, you are so stressed out and tired that you have no energy for changing the world. We used to think that the internet was going to be an information super-highway that would create an Al-Gorean utopia where all problems and all daily tasks would be solved super-fast. When was the last time you heard the term information super-highway?
At least half of the Internet is a super-gutter than runs alongside the super-highway. But, the truth is we are inundated in way too much information. And just like the semantic satiation we experience by saying a word over and over again until it becomes completely meaningless, all of life takes on the pallor of anxiety satiation multiplied by semantic satiation multiplied by the guilt for having difficulty managing it all, and in the end we collapse, hoping that the whole crazy train will just keep on chugging down the tracks with or without us worrying about it tonight.
So, the next time you try to find someone to blame or get mad at, or the next time you want to pick up and get out of town to start fresh, or the next time the government is telling you to do something you have no way of accomplishing or you might die, just tell yourself that it is the nature of modern society to manage our lives as a series of over-controlled disasters.
Think of it this way. I am going to tell you a funny story that is true, and it is especially appropriate to tell today, having just changed the time. When I was a college professor, I decided to perform an informal experiment. I started asking every single class I taught to answer this question: “Why do we have daylight savings time?” After performing this experiment for 10 years, I had some startling results. In every class, there were perhaps three or four people who would venture an answer. In no class, did everyone have an answer. In every class, the few people who had answers did not agree with one another – they each always had different answers. What does this tell us?
It tells us plainly that, as a society, we have absolutely no idea why we all change time itself twice a year. There is no consensus, and there is no widely understood or agreed upon logic behind why we do it. Yet, that does not stop us all from dutifully changing time itself twice a year. Well, not all of us, because there are counties that do not change the time. For some reason, in some states, there are counties that never change the time, while the next county over will dutifully change time twice a year. How can you not do it when everybody else does it? But, in the next county over nobody is doing it.
Perhaps the most popular answer given had something to do with farmers needing more daylight hours in the morning so their kids could work the farm before going to school. Really? Trust me, our economy does not depend on child labor working the fields for a few good hours before going off to school. In our society, farming is almost entirely a corporate enterprise at this point. The plain truth of the matter is that there is absolutely no consensus among us, and we have absolutely no idea why we change time itself twice a year.
From a social psychological standpoint, ‘the social’ forms and shapes ‘the psychological’. The only answer can be that daylight savings time is a form of social control that does exist to serve a function. Conjecture: if we can all be persuaded to change time itself without knowing why, then we can be persuaded to do almost anything else. We can be persuaded that we need to get out of Dodge quickly because the coming storm will kill us, and then we can persuade ourselves that there is no way all of us can leave the state at the same time, and drive calmly and quickly up I-95 to get away from the storm. And then we can persuade ourselves that everything always goes like this, but life is just one big over-controlled disaster anyway, so we will just pray our way through it the same way we always have.
The strange thing is that we have reached this technocratic peak where our crown-of-creation society can be effectively managed as a series of over-controlled disasters, yet we are still anxiety-ridden to the core. The strange thing is that we know we are better off, smarter, and more technologically advanced than our ancestors ever were – but Johnny still can’t read even though he is graduating high school next year, and when the next hurricane hits Florida, if you have no way of flying out of Florida at a moment’s notice, then you will have to stay and suffer the consequences, and it will be your own damn, guilt-ridden fault.
How did we become so advanced that we have outstripped all the problems our ancestors had, but we still live our lives from one over-controlled disaster to the next? How did we all get corralled into believing that we have it so good, when the truth is that too many of us live from one over-controlled disaster to the next? Maybe the problem is that we believe everything we are promised and told because we are just too idealistic. We always want to believe that our ship is about to come in, and that our very own Willy Wonka golden ticket is just around the corner, about to fall into our hands. Why else would everybody buy a lottery ticket?
Humans are ridiculously optimistic and it is perhaps our best and most endearing trait. Maybe modern technocratic society is not going to be so much better than life was for our ancestors after all. Maybe life is always about trade-offs – isn’t that what they mean in Taoism when they talk about Yin and Yang? Maybe life gets better and better and worse and worse at the same time.
~End 3 of 3~ New post Thursday ...