If you dare think beyond mere «living better» then it gets pretty obvious how our society has become devoid of ideals, how small we think, how empty is our whole life. Try to get rich and try to fsck as much as you can. And use condoms. Empty, empty, empty. But i don’t mean it is empty to the people living it — though it can be for some and it certainly is for me. I don’t mind. I do different stuff and by now i am very used to be unable to answer “but what do you do”. This is just me, and i am just a man, i make no difference. But he insulted Rome.
Or, more precisely, this whole way of living is at best workable when your whole society is fsckd up, unable to find food to feed itself. Happens sometimes, and it is good that we can deal with that when it happens, shows that we are resilient. It is also good that it does happen sometimes, shows that we have not yet become too conservative, that we still try for new things. But focusing on finding a potato to get us fed for yet one more day is not enough when we already have potatoes to keep us for 3,725,213 years if we manage to live that much.
More precisely, we do have more than subsistence, we already do. As in you. As in right now. We as a society do not need more.
In the past, whenever a given society had more food than it could eat, it just made more children and things got balanced. Most populations of basically any living thing do exactly that. The societies of Homo Sapiens sapiens generally taken to be “richer”, on the other hand, seem to do the opposite. The richer you get, the less you breed. And this is universally said to be how things are supposed to be, and that we must strive to make the whole world like that: overfed, overworked, and birth-controlled.
The American Way of Life is just an overreaction to too much famine and maybe some overzealous ideological crusaders (NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!!!). It basically says that if you have food, health, and a car, all the rest in life will come easily. Well, it did. But the thing is: All the rest in life was taken as a given. It could be, as long as we didn’t get out of our burrow. Or in other words, as long as the general context remained the same. Or as long as the constrains we had ordered upon ourselves remained consistent.
But, curiously, the world is somehow easier than that. You don’t have to strive too much to live. Basically the sun gives us everything we need as a gift. It just keeps on beaming. And, you know, we did not do anything to deserve. And if we did, or if we did something to stop deserving, the sun would still keep on shining. Life is basically easy.
So to live life as if you were inside a trench amidst a chaotic warzone is… just… dumb.
You don’t have to work in order to get money. You don’t have to work to live. Working does not magically create living conditions that would not exist otherwise. Work just moves things around. It swaps their places. As in, for example, swapping food from your neighbour’s kitchen to yours. So at some specific point we are moving things so that we have food that we didn’t before, but that is a very, very, very thin slice of the work that contemporary occidental society is performing.
It is fairly reasonable to include in any system supposed to survive (in the precise cybernetic sense) that it should have an «explore» clause. And we humans seem to. So when we are not pressed with more pressing matters, we go around trying to find new stuff. And being the meddlers we are, we go tweaking stuff around.
That means, when we achieve way-beyond-subsistence levels, there is an awful lot of energy free to be dispensed around. And experience shows that this energy, in absence of a bigger goal, an society-wide encompassing perspective, just goes to meddling with each other. So after we achieve welfare state, we go beyond it and get to life-sucks state, because not having anything better to do we focus on making our neighbour miserable.
Obviously we have other names for all of it. Like “Innovation”, or “Development”, or “Entrepreneurship”. But what it all boils down to is: Compete with your equals!
This is no surprise, granted. Basically, living beings compete against their equals more than with anything else in the world. That’s how it is. But… It now has gone beyond healthy limits.
The taken-for-granted ideal of life was… Well, it was a modification of something else, which was also in itself a mod, and so on. All of them had their points. And they worked, more or less.
What we are facing now, worldwide, is not a change in the model-of-living, but a change in the point that was behind this model. Not a change in life, but in the assumptions that led to that kind of life.
To deal with a change in assumption with an mod-mindset — trying to fix, to tune, to improve — is bound to fail. “Once you acquire a marketplace soul, the suk is the totality of existence.” (Frank Herbert) We need, so to say, to start anew. But this means you get transformed into yet another novelty, you become part of the cycle of changing to remain the same. The smallness of life reaches everywhere. We are trapped into our own lack of a dream. We are trapped into our success. And we are trapped into our assumptions.