Tag Archives: darwinism

(Post)modern obsessions

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Have you noticed how the following themes keep popping up, almost obsessively, in contemporary discourse – in the media, in the public sphere and increasingly in ourselves?

This obsession with sex – and complete devaluation of love and tenderness and commitment.

This obsession with doing – and complete devaluation of being.

This obsession with the intensity of fragmented experience – and complete devaluation of profoundness and resilience and eternity.

This obsession with work and maximization – and complete devaluation of contemplation and spirituality. Of the time it takes to realize that you have a soul, that you are a human being capable of transcendence, not a machine plugged in to churn out as many objects as possible per unit of time.

We treat ourselves and each other as equipment, as products. We apply to beings the logic of machines. We have transferred the maximum efficiency mantra of the technological sector to human life. We have internalized the algebraic depersonalisation, the callous disregard, the flattening subjugation of being to efficiency and utility present in our discourses. We find it OK to behave and to be treated increasingly like predictable robots or like working animals. Like mammals, all dapper and happy to be allowed to act out their basest instincts.

This obsession with Darwinism, with us as little more than physical organisms in biological evolution, this bench-marking against apes, not against angels or saints? This devaluation of angels and saints as melodrama and cheap esoteric – or, even, as oppression. This talk of our “natural instincts”. Nature, our nature, as a new goddess. But should we always make way for our natural instincts? Will that improve us? What will build more character and more goodness and a deeper path to the absolute we secretly yearn for?

(Is something good or legitimate simply because we were born with it? Because we acquired it? Because it is fun? Because it brings pleasure or monetary value? Are we not supposed to transcend ourselves?)

This frenzy of devaluation… No religion, but brand religion. The branding iron.

What is slavery for theoretically free individuals? According to Simone Weil, the disconnect between one’s efforts and their life’s work. (We work, but we no longer have a life’s work, an opus, an oeuvre. We expect our work to be the foundation of our identity, but in fact, so many of us no longer feel like creators. We no longer develop our being in the process of our work. Work all too often feels like odd life-draining tasks under excruciating time pressure, away from the ones we love. It no longer feels like purpose. Just endless busyness. Our work has control over us, but we no longer have much control over it.)

What else is slavery? In Gravity and Grace, S. Weil goes on to say it is the coercion to accept that “reading” of yourself, that interpretation of yourself, which others stamp on you. Having no choice or having only wrong choices. Allowing yourself to be devoured by exhausting activities, and making all this daily effort simply to stay in your current condition – no horizon, no finality, mere survival. Day to day to day. The arbitrariness of how you are treated. The dependency. The addiction.

Any illusion begins to feel real when enough people accept it and internalize it as “the thing to do”. Repeated, it reproduces, it propagates.

This destruction of the human soul…

We no longer recognize the sacredness of our own and each other’s being.

Will the human spirit ever rise against this flattening iron?…

 

 

Automotive darwinism

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I am naturally wary of any car that is either:

a) big enough to flatten my house

or

b) fast enough to break the sound barrier. 😛

Which is why I try to stay out of their way if I can help it. I (almost) always give Porsches, Hummers, and even some BMWs the right of way. That is my way of showing respect to those who are at the top of the cubic capacity chain. (Plus I like it safe). It appears to be a fact of life fact that the ability to read road signs and abide by rules is inversely proportional to the horsepower or the size of the bank account.

I mean, rich people do pay more road tax and generally contribute more to every public service because, when you apply even a reduced tax rate to their astronomical incomes, the absolute monetary value of their contribution still outweighs mine or yours by a ratio of at least one to… let’s say 100 (but feel free to add as many zeros as you think are appropriate).

But do they have to rub our noses in it? (When they do pay, that is. When they’re not in some offshore fiscal paradise.) Take this young lady at REAL this morning, for instance, with her precious Hummer. Did she have to occupy one of the parking spots reserved for mothers with children even though she was alone and she only stopped to drop off a summer shirt for ironing? Normal people kill for those spots, you know. Those spots are the only ones where there is enough space for you to be able to open both car doors sufficiently to extract your kids. It used to be that rich people in Germany had this very nice, redeeming quality of not flaunting their wealth – acting normally, following the rules just like everybody else. It’s great that you’re rich, it’s not like you have apologize for it or anything, but do you have to be arrogant, too? Modesty never hurt anybody. It’s not all about the money. There are other ways of contributing to society and to the public good.

Why do so many rich people begin to think they’re smarter than the rest? They immediately feel “self-made”. Rich people tend to think they got where they are exclusively thanks to their own efforts, and poor people tend to think they got where they are by some ugly conspiracy of the universe. I think they’re both wrong. There is such a thing as Providence, luck, being in the right place at the right time, having the right environment and resources – but there is also such a thing as being pro-active, determined, tenacious, knowing how to use the resources, the environment and the chances presented to you. All of us get some endowment at birth, from somewhere up above, and have to make the best of it. It’s not like you can take all the credit if it turns out well, but none of the blame if it turns out bad.

That being said, it is kinda worrying when our society starts not only chasing and brandishing status symbols, but also using them to humiliate others. It used to be that people bought status symbols to make themselves feel better. (Feeling empty? Add a brand.)  Now it’s like they’re buying them to make the others feel bad. (Hey, I invented driving.)

It is also worrying that, according to sociologists, a new type of feudalism is on the rise: people in certain professions (financiers and the like) make about 300 times more money than the average wage in our society. Their lives are spent increasingly in exclusive, elite circles, private clubs and private islands, that no longer have any connection with how the rest of us live. They mingle almost exclusively among their own kind and marry within the group more often than they used to, according to one study. These people are rulers of private empires parallel to our world, can influence policies more than we like to imagine, and exercise power over our lives without even being brain surgeons. The effect of such unevenly distributed wealth is a society driven by envy and a desire for quick profits and lax morals. Some degree of inequality is normal and even healthy. Some are, after all, more industrious than others. But too much inequality leads to frustration, tension and societal malfunctions.

Hummers of the world, please keep us little people happy and park where you’re supposed to.