Freakonomics

Some actually believe that they are entitled to more than others, that somehow the colour of their skin and how popular they are determines this privilege. They grow up being served and like a spoilt child who with a cry or with a scream can ensure he gets what he wants, he grows up to believe that despite doing nothing for this world, despite having nothing interesting about him, everyone will still adore him as he did growing up. He then continues by injecting steroids into his system to physically appear masculine and finding a stupid, attractive girlfriend and there you have it, the image of perfection and happiness, just like the millions of others doing the exact same thing because they think the exact same thing. These young men then interact with virtual reality by playing violent video games to give them artificial feelings of strength and power to compensate for the powerlessness they feel to be themselves. I think this quote perfectly epitomises the biggest problem in our society today: “It means that mummy and daddy have been spoiling you, and now you think that the world owes you something, but it doesn’t. And if you don’t learn how to work hard now, then you’re going to just grow up to be like another entitled little white dude who thinks he’s awesome for no reason. And then you’ll start a Ska Band and it’ll be awful and you’ll be mean to girls, and you’ll grow this ironic moustache to look interesting but you won’t actually be interesting, and I’m not okay with that.” [1]

And yet, if so many millions think that happiness is attainable by these superficial means, suddenly this imagined ideal requires ugly people to go, the elderly need to be hidden away, where rape, terrible violence, poverty are somehow swept under the carpet so that life becomes perfectly singular. If you deviate from this norm you are damaged and need to be removed, just like a divorced child is outcast in a society that regulates marriage. It is a social pathology of being ‘normal’ and that suddenly – despite being superficial in order to achieve this normalcy – you are safe and secure from the terror of being different and the isolation of being disliked. A pathology explains a mental state engaged in constant maladaptive behaviour and actual reality becomes a shadow, an imagined state and like a neurological disease it has somehow become broadly acceptable because it blinds our fear to recognise the absolute futility and vanity of our behaviour. “Let them eat cake!”

Has a parasite infected the minds of the masses or am I unable to recognise that such mindlessness is a necessary component for a functioning economy, that despite the absence of a moral compass, capitalism requires men to believe that the drudgery of their existence, the deep and incredibly profound boredom that they feel is nevertheless worthy, that they are important and that they are the best human that they can be? The amount of money that women spend on cosmetics is reprehensible – the average woman in Australia spends up to $3,600 on beauty products each year – and the fact that millions upon millions of women are doing the same thing in this highly competitive space that makes all of them look and appear the same, starving themselves, changing their bodies, and acting or behaving ‘nice’ makes me wonder how terrible our spending priorities have become.

Capitalism needs people to imagine individuality. Benedict Anderson wrote of Imagined Communities that examines how nationalism emerges out of our creation of a community as it forms through the discourses that are generated by the capitalist marketplace where we start to construct likes and dislikes that enables people to think in masses. For Karl Marx, the competition forms a monopoly that perpetuates a great divide between the wealthy and the exploited and thus the incentive for wealth sows the seeds of its own destruction. For Foucault, the discourses strengthens the social network and can effectively enable positive relations despite there being no real ‘truth’ in what is broadly accepted as truth.

“I think that the word bored does not get the attention it deserves. We speak of all sorts of terrible things that happen to people, but we rarely speak about one of the most terrible things of all: that is, being bored, being bored alone and, worse than that, being bored together.”

I realised that I lack sympathy, that my disgust for those types of people who believe in the vanity of appearances and spend money on fashion and make-up and who follow an image of “good” behaviour despite the shallowness and emptiness of who they are, deserves more compassion. These people are trapped in that constant repetition, they are paralysed by a fear of confronting reality because if they do, if they become conscious that their existence as merely a tiny, irrelevant speck attached to a delusional mass, the system would collapse. Would that be a good thing?

In the book Freakonomics, there is the exploration of the immoral that is formed within this system, that ‘good behaviour’ is in fact a disguise rooted by incentives that compel people to act as long as they receive something that they want in return. Even with our relationships with one another, it is not about being honest or humane but whether or not there is an incentive, something that I can receive in return. In Japan, for instance, society ignored that match-fixing existed in the realm of Sumo wrestling and that the violence and abuse of this hierarchical and highly competitive system was impossible. The terrible truth was eclipsed by tradition and the image of something beautiful and perfect. Like the myth of Narcissus who viewed his own reflection and fell in love with his own image, he no longer lived neither as a man or a hunter and died staring at himself.

300px-Narcissus-Caravaggio_(1594-96)_edited

I decided that while the system is there for a reason, it is morally broken. The supplementary book Think Like A Freak speaks of the “upside of quitting” and that by thinking like a ‘freak’ and therefore challenging the norm in an absence of fear can lead one to greater success and happiness.  As said by the authors: “Quitting is hard because it is equated with failure, and nobody likes to fail, or at least be seen failing. But is failure so terrible? We don’t think so.” If society functions under an imagined landscape where our moral compass is really just ignoring the bad things that are happening or pretending that there are no vulnerable that need our help, that there is happiness in the objects or things that we buy, it offers the opportunity for politicians and institutions to take advantage of this propensity to self-deceit. They begin to irrationally consume and forget the importance of our humanity.

Untitled

Translating our understanding of the world realistically based on economic terms may actually benefit us. The system won’t collapse. It will improve, no matter how terrible we think the outcome will be. “When failure is demonized, people will try to avoid it at all costs—even when it represents nothing more than a temporary setback.” Whatever the change is, whether it is job, partner or friends, what might appear to be the complete destruction of your life is just a temporary set back to something better. That way, our moral compass becomes real and impenetrable.

I have spent so long pointlessly trying to fight against the grain of social cliche and have decided to spend my time actually making a difference.

3 Comments

  1. I share your view that “while the system is there for a reason, it is morally broken.” We see this immoral manifestation playing out here in America with the separation of refugee children from their parents. Where is our humanity? As you so rightly observe:
    “If society functions under an imagined landscape where our moral compass is really just ignoring the bad things that are happening or pretending that there are no vulnerable that need our help, that there is happiness in the objects or things that we buy, it offers the opportunity for politicians and institutions to take advantage of this propensity to self-deceit. They begin to irrationally consume and forget the importance of our humanity.”

    Like

    Reply

    1. You are spot-on about what the message was attempting to convey. So many young people today seem to believe that happiness is attainable through external objects with no substance, but what they are really yearning is social approval and during the process they lose their humanity in an attempt to garner this approval. It makes me angry, but it also makes me sad knowing that it comes from a vulnerable place, like our silly boy in the introduction who plays violent video games to give him that artificial feeling of power to compensate for feelings of powerlessness. Meaning is only attainable through this moral compass within us and I like how Freakonomics explains this difficulty finding and appreciating reality as it is, at how difficult it is to think for ourselves in a society so entrenched with these distractions. Thanks Rosaliene. 🙂

      Like

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.