Essay

A lot of adults go to therapy because of problems stemming from their childhood. I’m convinced this is because many people grow older and never learn to reconcile their past. They just get better at hiding from their feelings or distracting themselves with media or drowning out the pain with substances.

Acts of dysfunction like violence and abuse arise out of an inability to communicate our innermost thoughts and feelings. I’d go so far as to say most people lack the self-knowledge and reflective discipline to conduct regular psycho-emotional system status checks, so they can’t tell they’re driving through life with their check healthy emotional regulation light on.

In school, they should teach us applied ethics. Teachers are so caught up with teaching facts they fail to develop well-rounded, cognizant individuals. Imagine if we had daily meditations on the relationships between social conformity, misaligned societal norms, and unrealistic media portrayals. Or the rise of industrialism in America and how Andrew Carnegie and Rockefeller destroyed families and people’s health to become evil tycoons. Or how anti-trust laws are becoming weakened and the consumer protection bureau has no teeth. Or thoughtful interventions regarding the nuanced discussion that should be had about historically prejudicial race and gender relations.

Kids can’t be kids. Those high school actors are in their twenties. And I know a grandma who remembers when women were finally allowed to wear jeans in America.

What would it be like if as early as age 13 girls were welcomed to a discussion on the pressures of feminine mystique and Western culture’s sick propensity for hyper-sexualization and the selling out of our kids’ well-being through objectification?

Shocking, I know, to try to provide an anti-venom to the viral Internet.

There are no role models. There are no leaders. The moral vanguards are hidden behind the gates of academia because ethics ain’t profitable. Shout out to Matha Nussbaum and Peter Singer. There is no voice of reason, yelling from a bully pulpit the urgency that is our kids’ well-being.

But, please, accept these thoughts and prayers.

We’re so caught up in keeping up with Joneses (or Kardashians), chasing the almighty dollar, our own emotional issues, our fear of lawsuits, getting by on jobs we hate so we can afford things that don’t satisfy us, the selfishness of our neighbors, earning social media likes, becoming famous, or finding the next big thing that we never stop to consider the damage we’re doing to each other.

Here are some facts that we should be talking about probably on a weekly basis:

1. Despite the social hierarchy, we all fundamentally want the same things.

2. These things are acceptance, inclusion, belonging, and love.

3. Even though we want this love, most people expend way too much energy judging the inadequacies of others, most likely because people tend to operate on a vicious cycle of ego-tripping.

4. We’re not happy, and no one is being honest about it.

We’re letting the media decide our debates. Caravans of immigrants aren’t the problem. Political corruption is a distant issue. Instead, leaders need to be addressing the fact that:

  • The majority of the wealth being generated in the world is going to a fraction of a fraction of the global population;
  • Millions are going to die because of corporate greed destroying the earth;
  • Corporations can anonymously funnel money into campaigns;
  • Great, unbiased journalism is threatened internationally by assassination, hot takes, and pandering for views;
  • Almost 1/3 of the global population doesn’t have access to safe water;
  • And poor Americans can’t afford quality dental care or access to mental health resources.

We’re eating dinner alone. We’re lonely. We’ve stigmatized mental health but we celebrate the grotesque fakeness of pop icons. They’re packaged. They’re surgically improved. It’s all smoke and mirrors. And too many of us are eating right out of the hands of these savages.

We don’t know how to fix ourselves.

And no one is talking about it.

So talk about it.

Imagine this: the bottom of your shoes starts to come off and a hole begins along the side where your arch is, so you decide you should get a new pair. You go to the store and after looking for some time decide on a nice new pair of, say, Nikes.

After wearing these new Nikes for a few days, you start to feel they don’t match your worn jacket, which makes you feel the need to replace the old jacket with something that will create a better look with the Nikes, something you can feel more fresh in.

You get the jacket. Then, inevitably, you get new jeans with the jacket to complete the look, maybe even a new wristwatch.

This, my friends, is the Diderot Effect. It has two formal definitions. First, it means goods purchased by consumers will be cohesive to their sense of identity, and as a result, will be complementary to one another. And second, the introduction of a new possession that is deviant from the consumer’s current complementary goods can result in a process of spiraling consumption.

This phenomenon was first coined in the essay “Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown, or
A warning to those who have more taste than fortune.”

It’s classic consumerism and important to be aware of the next time you’re feeling like something you once loved could use a bit of an update.

E.E. Cummings said, “To be nobody-but-yourself-in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any humanRalph Waldo Emerson being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

This is a common theme throughout history; the greatest thinkers have praised originality.

This is a concept worth continuing a discussion about because the dangers of conformity are as alive as ever.

Perhaps one of the greatest manifestos on individualism is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Self-Reliance. Indeed, in perfect union with Cummings’s philosophy is Emerson’s quote that:

Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Here are a few other remarkable statements from that essay:

  • To believe our own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost…
  • Insist on yourself; never imitate.
  • Where is the master who could have taught Shakspeare?  Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton?  Every great man is a unique.

For more quotes and their meanings, see this link