Philosophy

Society might feel like it’s simpler than we imagine. At its core, there are a few key ingredients. For example:

  1. Clothing
  2. Food
  3. Natural resources for building and technology
  4. Entertainment
  5. Ideas
  6. Art
  7. Relationships

The devil is in the details and the values we place upon these categories. What does clothing mean to you? Is it a mere means to comfort or is it a projection of our status to the world? What is the meaning of art? Do we feel like we belong in our relationships and which relationships does that matter in? Why do we create art? What is it we connect with in movies we are entertained by? Do we just believe things about these categories that we have been told to believe by people in our immediate circles?

In some respects, the development of society is a continual over-complication. (Enter the rise of -isms.) It’s the macro-equivalent of someone with too much time on their hands.

But there’s more to this. Society is stratified. This means it’s arranged and organized. And this is really where things get tricky.

You start to see the formulation of a dominant mindset, some values or ideas battle against others, and we start to really complicate things with winners and losers.

When you break society down to its most essential elements as I did just above, you start to see that these ideas of status and authority are kind of absurd.

We’re all just human beings. We all pretty much want the same stuff.

This is a riff. I don’t know where it’s going. These are just important things to think about.

Ask yourself what the relationship between the Internet, mass communication, and industrialism has on these relationships? Who becomes the gatekeepers? Who decides who wins and loses?

I don’t have the answers yet about these things, but I invite you along.

I think there’s something to be said about the role of government in this whole thing.

Here’s something to keep in mind along the journey: politics is the movement of power. It’s the ultimate decision about authority.

Yesterday I may have gotten some things wrong. Bloggers often speak about topics they may not have the qualifications to speak about. But I think that’s okay.

It’s okay, at least in this instance, because I admittedly don’t have the answers. I have my best guess, but that’s all I can offer. I can provide you with my best educated shot at what’s going on in the world. It’s likely not much yet, but I’m really, really striving to make it something. And that should count for, well, something.

I made a lot of assertions. I realize some of them might be controversial. They might even damage some career prospects. But I think that’s okay, too. Because there needs to be more people willing to give a thoughtful perspective. There needs to be more of a meaningful dialogue about important issues of our time.

A lot of folks keep their head down. That’s all right. I worry, though, that it might stop them from reaching their full potential. I fear it might cause a life of mediocrity.

I really care that people are judgemental and that their behavior is antithetical to a more connected, inclusive society. And I really care about global inequity. History is riddled with exploitative practices, and we aren’t given the personal toolkit to have a considerate conversation about the real implications or normative principles undergirding them. To not share that perspective would be a disservice to humanity.

I want to be clear that I’m not opposed to different perspectives. In fact, I sincerely welcome – even crave – them. The day I allow myself to live in an echo chamber is the day I’ve died intellectually and philosophically. It’s the day I’ve let myself down for comfort.

I think a part of living rightly is being willing to take a stand on some issues, particularly ones with such far reaching externalities like corporate greed. If everyone stood idly in fear that they wouldn’t get hired, the bad guys (and girls) would triumph unopposed.

I hope that we can foster a culture where professionals can be more than replaceable cogs in bureaucratic machines. I hope we can create a culture where they’re considered well-versed facilitators of cogent values. Not necessarily champions of a cause but moderaters who offer thoughtful lenses or ethical paradigms with a keen eye toward the disenfranchised.

We must consider the human. And professionalism needs empathy.

 

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.

Age is just a number. It doesn’t matter how old you get, you can still be not living well. You can still be making the same mistakes over again, wasting away watching television and stuck in the mental frame you were when you stopped progressing.

Sure, it’s possible to learn from mistakes as you age and to grow more independent, but it doesn’t have the merit that folks tend to put into it. What does matter? Wisdom.

My argument in sum is agedness does not necessitate wiseness, unless the aged have sought wisdom.

What’s wisdom?

Wisdom, put simply, is the understanding of what it takes to live a good life. The pursuit of wisdom is the pursuit of a life built upon principles of rightful conduct – that is, rightful thinking and rightful action.

To be wise one must do certain things. The foremost thing a wise person must do is learn and practice the virtues. By aligning yourself to the ways of virtue, you can become gradually like a tuning fork, resonating internally through a lens of insight. It allows you to consider the actions of others and the ways of nature from a perspective that lends itself to the apprehension of laws.

Wiseness also requires us to necessarily humble our egos. Each of us wants to believe that our past behavior and thinking has been right. We are stubborn in our own development. We work against what’s in our best interest by not allowing ourselves to grow.

There’s a caveat: while it is imperative to listen to the rebuke of others, be wary of poor advice. Many people will project their weaknesses onto you. You have to walk a line between a grounding in your principles and criticism. To better achieve this, it is helpful to seek a multitude of perspectives.

If this seems paradoxical or contradictory, there’s a reason. There’s no proven path to wisdom beyond working with the conceptions of virtue. The virtues are like a mountain, each views them clearly but from different perspectives and the path up the mountain will be different for each. Even when you reach the summit, the path will have changed your lens so you see it differently than someone else who reaches the summit. That doesn’t matter though because I don’t think anyone has ever reached the summit of Mount Virtue, one would probably then become a god among people.

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.

I recently got an Instagram. I think it’s a fun way to promote ideas, people, and stuff I care about like libraries and comic books. But since joining I’ve noticed something interesting. Namely, it reveals things about people I didn’t realize.

It shows me that people I know like pictures of scantily-clad women. It’s surprising, but perhaps shouldn’t be. I mean it’s normal, I guess, right? And I suppose it could be much worse.

About two months ago, I watched this movie on Netflix called The American Meme. It showed how there is a subculture in America (presumably youth culture) that loves to watch people just act like idiots.

It’s like total Epicureanism – the worship of mental pleasure; ultimate indulgence in absurdist vice, hedonism.

I’m not sure if society has always been plagued by such debauchery or craving to witness irrational, thoughtless activities. Surely, we’ve been racist, sexist, greedy, and selfish for a long time.

However, I think today it’s evolved into something much more extreme, which has been perpetuated by media.

There are so many movies that glorify sex or objectivism, alcoholism, and drug abuse. What’s more, the celebrities in these films have become staples of cultural paradigms thanks to a rise in magazines like People and J-14. I don’t know the answers to these issues, nor do I have them widely explored.

I’m bringing them up because I think it’s important to have an open dialogue about where we’re moving as a society. This conversation at this point might be trite. Think about how many people were up in arms about the rise of rock n’ roll, MTV, hip hop, and Eminem’s mainstream success. The list could go for hours. Though it’s continually necessary to think about whether we’re creating fertile ground for the healthy, thriving development of our children.

These thoughts have led me to start thinking about cultural theorists such as Karl Popper and Theodor Adorno, as well as concepts related to post-consumerism and post-materialism. Hopefully, I’ll get time to read these in the next 3 to 5 years. Meanwhile, I am just striving to get my daily actions in order by reading books like Good to Great and The War of Art.

You can’t change the world until your own motivations are right.

In karma yoga, you’re instructed to practice good intentions until you do so unconsciously then free yourself from all attachment and intention.

Yogis say that life is cyclical suffering because of attachment, and the only way to escape it is through this gradual release.

If you aren’t attached to anything, you can’t get hurt.

Also, it’s said a person of virtue acts with equanimity, they keep their poise or wits about them, they remain even-keeled – in times of both good fortune and misfortune.

It might be said if you’re constantly tempering your feelings, you aren’t really experiencing life or you’re sacrificing a vital element of your humanity, as well as your intuition.

It’s tough to say for sure which is the best perspective.

It’s true that rationality and detachment can perhaps ease the pain of loneliness, let downs, or loss.

But is it worth your wonder, joy, or immense appreciation for life?