Untimely Observations

Empire of Misery


From childhood on, most of us experience life through the denial of others. In the interest of all getting along, or making do with what we have, we ignore the overall direction of our society, which has been screaming downward like a burning plane for at least 200 years.

In school, they put a brave face on it by teaching us that The EnlightenmentTM was the period when we woke up from the grim “red in tooth and claw” past, and starting moving toward progress, which we’re not supposed to call Utopia. The idea was that we could “perfect” humanity.

Like many other human engineering experiments, this process is marked by dramatic failure until the right technology is found. The only problem is that, thanks to human denial, we have never stopped to re-assess whether our basic directional change back there in The EnlightenmentTM was right or not. We just keep trying new variations on the same old idea.

When we are young, adults seem to us to be denying life. They don’t care about existential joy, or happiness, but more mundane things, namely:

  1. Money
  2. Power
  3. Keeping up with the Joneses

There’s a practical reason for this: if you have the first two, and make a halfhearted stab (at least) toward the third, you fit into the herd and no one can tell that you might have any thoughts outside approval for how our society is.

Since we all know our society is in decay, we tend to fear those who speak that truth, and smash them down if we can. In any emergency, the best way to get torn apart by a lynch mob is to start doing what is sensible. Doing what is sensible requires risk; denial does not, psychologically at least.

To a teenager, say a junior in high school, adulthood is simple: people spend all their time on studying, which is really detail memorization to see how much you retain, and then spend all their time working, so they have money to enjoy life, which tends to occur when they’re very old and retired. It’s essentially death-worship.

Even more appalling is the grim fact that people are signaling blatant discontent. They jockey for power, and act like jerks to one another so that they feel that sense of importance that makes them think their lives are worthwhile.

Really, they’re just bitter that for 300+ days a year they’re going to the same office and doing the same dumb stuff, most of which is designed to accommodate dumb people and dumb regulations. They have become robots, mechanically going through the motions without a thought for how the situation could be improved or (gasp) made more fun.

Part of what drives them ahead is overpopulation. Since we keep producing people like mad, and none of us have any hereditary right to a job, we must constantly tread water harder and faster to keep ourselves from drowning. The problem with this is that then others compete by spending more time on it and wham, to compete, we must spend all our time on the same.

Some people live a gilded life, they think. They have found a good income and jobs they don’t terribly mind. Some of these are honestly well-situated. But for most, they’re bored, conscious of missing out on better options, angry and resentful. They become vandals against the system that traps them.

This vandalism occurs in little ways, but it’s nasty. They’ll cut you off on the road, cut ahead in line, abuse underlings, treat support staff badly, or even outright sabotage one another. Parents sabotage children by teaching them socially-acceptable lies, then using the children’s failure to seize control of their lives. People manipulate each other, even in families.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that it feels like some mythical “end times” from an ancient holy book. People have no faith in truth, in honor or in goodness. In the name of freedom and individualism, they act out of self interest and pass their destruction on to the whole group. When everyone does that, we must all dedicate all of our time to survival.

The sad thing is that this gratifies the resentful mind. They’d hate it more than anything if someone escaped the misery to which they have condemned themselves. They hate anyone who has more than they do, anyway, and they frequently petition politicians to take away what others have so they can have some of it.

But their biggest sabotage, by far, is remaining in denial. In denial that we’re wasting our time in this modern work-slavery that’s totally inefficient. In denial that people are miserable, or that society is slowly sinking like the Titanic. They use their denial to make you doubt your own perceptions, and to force you to suffer as they have..

If you can imagine a swirling vortex of hatred, reactionary backlash and sneering scorn, this is what humanity has become. It’s worst in the industrialized world, where we know we should be working less and enjoying more, but the opposite has occurred. We have formed ourselves an empire of our own misery, and we hate that anyone might escape.