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In Love/Hate with the Modern World

Audio Version

It starts from the top. That is something we all know. We don’t know who is truly at the top; it certainly isn’t a president, prime minister, or pope. Oligarchs? Clever (but evil) aliens? Stonecutters? Regardless, our modern world is based on power hierarchies, particularly in government, industry, commerce, education, science, and religion, all of which are heavily influenced by the capitalist market system. The system is clearly flawed, which is not surprising to most of us.

In a world where Coca-Cola can influence policy at the highest levels, something is clearly out of balance. As long as there are astronomical profits to be made anywhere on the planet, corporations will continue to run amok with Earth’s resources, to influence, bend, and break laws, and to spread their toxicity, manipulating and harming human lives wherever they go — until they are exposed, caught, or shut down. However, they can afford to pay the fees and penalties. They have a team of lawyers on staff. They have lobbyists, consultants, analysts, salespeople, and nearly unlimited financial resources to do whatever they want. They appear untouchable, and this is the big lie.

There appears to be a tipping point in any corporate entity (and, historically, in every nation, state, and empire), as demonstrated by today’s tech titans. The more successful and massive their venture, the more likely they are to become evil — or to adopt behaviors that ensure some form of self-destruction. Why is that? It cannot be solely about money. Are these amoral, MBA-holding individuals that delusional, willfully ignorant, cognitively and emotionally inept? Is this just historical amnesia? In what reality is it acceptable to seek profits and control over the health and well-being of an entire species (or race)? Apparently in ours. Companies founded on traditional business models will continue to suffer from this unavoidable ethical vulnerability.

A fundamental shift in the psychology, philosophy, and thus epistemology of business practices is required — a rebuilding from the ground up. Today, we see it in small pockets of the corporate world, most notably in non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and nonprofits, as well as those establishing new countries. These fundamental, systemic changes will take a generation to replace and amend, assuming they occur at all. More important is the evolving paradigm shift in the consciousness of the consumerist masses, including how they choose to earn, save, invest, and spend their money — and, more importantly, how they define “money” now and in the future. To do so, we must examine and unpack our values, beliefs, impulses, and intentions; our intrinsic and extrinsic ways of fostering and discerning meaning in today’s world.

Alex Kotliarskyi – Unsplash

There is no single solution to all of this. That fact alone has the potential to overwhelm those of us who are actively working to improve the human condition. Our world is in an evolutionary, emergent state of chaos and flux, and the structures and frameworks we have relied on for centuries are collapsing. The era of information, disclosure, and increased transparency has given us numerous reasons to distrust our leaders in societal, cultural, political, and academic contexts. It has also, predictably, fostered a general distrust of ourselves, exacerbating depression, anxiety, and isolationism. Social media is a perfect example of our emotional and physical distance from one another, contrasted by the hyperactivity, uneasy interactivity, and instantaneous volatility of largely text-based, misinterpretation-laden — yet oddly personal and quietly desperate — communication.

We’re learning a lot about each other, the world, our history, and the possibility of information distortions, while deferring a greater knowledge and wisdom about ourselves. I believe that today’s social media is a form of transition in which we put everything out there with increasing frequency and usefulness, preparing and propelling the larger collective toward something more stable and authentic. The internet, along with its dependencies and derivatives, is still in its early stages of development. However, the more we engage and deliberately, consciously direct our artful, creative, harmonizing human nature into it, the faster it will evolve technologically and organically into the next-level complementarity we desire.

That is ideal. But, something is rotten at the core of the Western world, and it must be addressed. When there are more billionaires than ever before, there should be a lot more to go around: better (free, universal) healthcare, cheaper and higher-quality housing, free, high-quality education — all the way through university — and a hell of a lot more, which is certainly possible today. Nonetheless, it is quietly ignored, deferred, or turned into a political issue, waiting to be foisted upon those who cannot afford to deal with it — the average citizen.

So, if we truly are the best and brightest, the most informed, and capable of incredible technological advancements and sociopolitical reform, why is there such a constant, life-sucking disturbance in the force?

Solvitur ambulando