Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Dark Forces are Gathering

Dark Forces are Gathering
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Ominous clouds move swiftly upon an otherwise placid summer sky, blanketing it in darkness. A brief flash of light gives way to slow thunder that groans achingly in the distance. Our hero looks up past the brim of his dusty, worn hat—knowing and weary. An epic battle is afoot…  and this is how the movies begin.

The notion of a meritocracy

I was raised a capitalist. The child of immigrant parents, I came to believe that capitalism was fundamentally just and egalitarian, with the vast bulk of wealth largely shared amongst those who worked hardest for it. For my mom and dad, and many of their era, this steadfast belief turned out to be both necessary and at times quite accurate. They started with little, toiled deliberately to build a life for themselves, and saved (when I’m sure they would have preferred to do otherwise), all so their kids could have access to opportunities that weren’t available to them.

I have to admit that when I too held to this construct, most things seemed to make sense, and the world appeared infinity simpler: The people who “picked themselves up by the bootstraps” could prevail over anything; Those with the best ideas profited from them; I would have even reasoned that those less fortunate were likely so as a result of their own volition.

I oversimplify how I once pictured things, in part for the sake of this story (any more detail, and I fear you’d nod off). Nevertheless, I must admit that I looked at things in polarizing terms, seeing few other possibilities. Perhaps I was also a bit naïve, believing that most things must “balance out” in favor of the honest and decent.

The world we’ve created


To think in those same terms today, I would either be a fool, or one of those great many, steadfastly determined to maintain a comfortable illusion (but an illusion nevertheless). This fantasy I speak of is one that persists regardless of its cost to our neighbors or future generations. It’s one that requires us to not ask questions.

In subscribing to it, we can’t allow ourselves to wonder how corporations afford us such (suspiciously) under-priced goods. We can never ask how all our trash magically disappears each day, and why we rarely find it in our own backyards. We must in no way challenge notions that masquerade as plain fact: perhaps best illustrated by the deluge of products brought to market using the words “eco” or “green” as prefixes, with little real consideration as to what such words should actually represent.

Regardless of your stance on climate change, I’d defy you to argue that we’re (collectively) living within our means. I’m sure you’ll agree that those of us in the developed world were simply born at the right time, and in the right place. We’re one of a very few lucky generations that has existed at a time in which the means to tap the earth’s resources (and profit from them) and the abundance of these spoils has seemed limitless.

One might hope that we would treasure such gifts, acting as guardians for our children, and theirs as well. Sadly, we’re squandering these riches, like gluttonous spoiled brats, with little consideration of anything (or anyone) else. We’ve subordinated a balanced order in favor of comical “advances” and “conveniences” like lathed carrots, which maintain uniform shape. Or, the novel practice of suctioning the fat from our asses and jamming it into our lips to meet artificial notions of beauty. And, don’t forget how we’ve created a concentrated version of “new car smell,” intended to simulate that wonderful fragrance of plastics and adhesives offgassing around us.

Illusions crumble

You can make any person do something seemingly mad, so long as you lead them down the path slowly and carefully enough. As one becomes more heavily invested in any situation, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to extricate themselves from it, as doing so would force them to face all the other flawed choices they had made. In such settings, it can seem easier to simply embrace the madness than challenge it and bring to question all that brought us to the current state.

I’d argue that we’re in just this sort of a “pickle”: as individuals, as nations, and as a society. We treat profit as our sole measure of economic health. We’ve bought into the myth that our excessive wealth doesn’t come at any cost to others. We have also held fast to the notion that the next thing (be it: car, house, suit, promotion, or raise) will somehow be the one that finally makes us happy. This last example seems to be the most odd of the lot: underscoring our inability to actually learn very much from our actions. We repeat this behavior ad infinitum, even in spite of the constant reminder that few material or monetary gains ever fill the voids we sometimes feel.

Even in light of such denial of the societal illness we’re caught in the grips of, it seems this illusion is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Like those last moments of a dream, in which the images projected in our mind start to flicker and fail, the evidence of the error in our ways is becoming too overwhelming. Many of us are starting to wonder if we have been sold a false bill of goods.

What happened to “fair”?

In the midst of our single serving world, the discordance between our ideals and our actions becomes hard to reconcile. The American government bails out giants of industry, while a substantial part of the populace still protests universal health care. Isn’t that a sort of strange thing? In my old notions of a “capitalist meritocracy,” it seemed that corporations could take care of themselves, and governments were there to help ensure people didn’t fall between the cracks.

The notion of a sick child being turned away from a hospital, while a high paid CEO could ask for a “gimme” just doesn’t seem to compute. (Admittedly, health care seems to be undergoing reform in the United States, but not without a litany of outrage. The President is painted by many as some kind of lunatic “socialist”—as though democracy and capitalism were inextricably tied, and any other ideology or thinking is most decidedly un-American.)

I see that I’m probably falling into an old trap, of allowing my concern to become a little “ranty,” and perhaps hyperbolic. So, let me pull this back a little.

We all like to think that we’re fair and decent people; yes? Then tell me why we so often hold business up as a representation of our greatest collective accomplishment, yet, we fail to measure those corporations with the same scrutiny and expectations we’d expect of ourselves. Corporations can seemingly do as they please, recognized as “entities,” yet, often able to bypass taking full responsibility for their actions.

Indulge me here as I fall into my comfortable armchair: the analogy. Imagine that while you are at work tomorrow, I break into your house, strip the copper pipes from the walls (in order to sell them later), and leave the broken water lines gushing, ruining your most prized possessions: the family photos, the heirloom grandfather clock, even (gasp!) the beautiful new flat screen television.

My guess is that this would anger you—particularly if I later bragged about my “profits.” You’d call the authorities, feel (rightly) violated, have a difficult time falling asleep, and possibly even contemplate methods of retribution. You would most certainly demand some kind of justice, and if you weren’t able to achieve it, you might even take matters into your own hands.

Yet, a number of large corporations commit much graver acts daily. They sell us products engineered to fail, while making promises they could never realistically honor. They trick us into packages that cost more than is outwardly stated, or have dubious “fine print.” Worse than all of this, is that they so often make their wares by stripping materials from our most precious places, displacing communities and ecosystems, with little regard for anything other than shareholder value.

We should be very, very angry. We should be rising up, grabbing our chairs, and lobbing them at these groups in heated protest. We should be demanding our governments take action. We should be telling the guilty corporations to clean up the messes they’ve made, while putting them on trial for theft, misrepresentation, environmental atrocities, and a variety of human rights violations.

But instead we do nothing.

We’re addicted

I’ll admit it: topics like this are a complete and utter fucking drag. In fact, I likely sound like some kind of a crazy person, as I carry on. (If it makes you feel any better, I’d much rather be making design stuff, or, better yet, eating pizza, drinking beer, and watching porn.) The reason that I don’t, though, is that I can’t quite get past the notion that we’re most likely in very serious trouble.

We’re running out of clean water, experiencing mass extinctions, have massive islands of plastic floating in our oceans, and (when I last checked), BP had barfed something like 4.1 million barrels of oil into our oceans. This is really just the tip of the iceberg—but all relatively good indications that we must take some kind of drastic action. Still, we sit, silently, tossing about phrases like “sustainability,” “social responsibility,” and “doing good,” as though uttering these words might somehow affect sufficient change.

Meanwhile, we seem incapable of even momentarily keeping ourselves from consuming. We’re like junkies with so many collapsed veins in our arms that we start looking for workable veins in between our toes. To an outsider it’s disgusting; to us, it has simply become a plain reality. It doesn’t matter where our stuff comes from, where it will go, or what someone else had to go through in order for us to have it. We’re addicts, and nothing’s coming between us and another “hit.”

We have “retail therapy,” an increasing list of things we “deserve,” and maybe even a little extra “me time” at the mall. And of course we do… because it’s easier to talk about the iPhone 4 and its lovely new display, than it is to ask whether our lust for new gadgets needs to be rethought in light of the conflict minerals they are most likely reliant upon. Similarly, it’s easier to point the finger at BP for their blunders, than it is for us to actually park our cars and instead sit on the bus next to “Mr. Stinky,” who perhaps treats baths as a “quarterly affair.” Fairness is inconvenient, so, we cast it aside and order another Big Mac (pity they don’t come in those neat styrofoam containers any longer).

Laziness, greed, and stupidity

When we watch trailers for new films, we’re presented with exciting (albeit silly) phrases like, “dark forces are gathering.” I’m of the mind that we find comfort in such sentiments. First of all, if there are “dark forces,” there are ostensibly “forces of good,” waiting to step in. More than that, the existence of a villain gives us someone to pin the blame on, absolving us of any responsibility.

My question is what happens if it turns out that movies are just movies, and epic struggles of “good and evil” are similarly rooted in fantasy? Could it be that there’s just us, clumsily trying to do our best, silently hoping for some kind of a superman to save our bacon?

My deep worry is that forces have in fact aligned, but instead of being comprised of “Disney-esque” villains, these forces are ones of laziness, greed, and stupidity. When we occasionally look past this thin illusion of “everything being OK,” that we’ve grown so accustomed to, we’re left facing a situation that is difficult to pawn off on anyone else. We’ve sown seeds with perilous consequences. Sadly, we’re too busy tweeting, obsessing over the amount of froth in our lattes, and asking whether we’ve “found ourselves,” to stop for a moment and ask, “is this all really worth the cost?”

Dark Forces are Gathering

Ominous clouds move swiftly upon an otherwise placid summer sky, blanketing it in darkness. A brief flash of light gives way to slow thunder that groans achingly in the distance. Our hero looks up past the brim of his dusty, worn hat—knowing and weary. An epic battle is afoot…  and this is how the movies begin.

The notion of a meritocracy

I was raised a capitalist. The child of immigrant parents, I came to believe that capitalism was fundamentally just and egalitarian, with the vast bulk of wealth largely shared amongst those who worked hardest for it. For my mom and dad, and many of their era, this steadfast belief turned out to be both necessary and at times quite accurate. They started with little, toiled deliberately to build a life for themselves, and saved (when I’m sure they would have preferred to do otherwise), all so their kids could have access to opportunities that weren’t available to them.

I have to admit that when I held to this construct, most things seemed to make sense, and the world appeared infinity simpler: The people who “picked themselves up by the bootstraps” could prevail over anything; Those with the best ideas profited from them; I would have even reasoned that those less fortunate were likely so as a result of their own volition.

I oversimplify how I once pictured things, in part for the sake of this story (any more detail, and I fear you’d nod off). Nevertheless, I must admit that I looked at things in polarizing terms, seeing few other possibilities. Perhaps I was also a bit naïve, believing that most things must “balance out” in favor of the honest and decent.

The world we’ve created

To think in those same terms today, I would either be a fool, or one of those great many, steadfastly determined to maintain a comfortable illusion (but an illusion nevertheless). This fantasy I speak of is one that persists regardless of its cost to our neighbors or future generations. It’s one that requires us to not ask questions.

In subscribing to it, we can’t allow ourselves to wonder how corporations afford us such (suspiciously) underpriced goods. We can never ask how all our trash magically disappears each day, and why we never find it in our own backyards. We must in no way challenge notions that masquerade as plain fact: perhaps best illustrated by the deluge of products brought to market using the words “eco” or “green” as prefixes, with little real consideration as to what such words should actually represent.

Regardless of your stance on climate change, I’d defy you to argue that we’re (collectively) living within our means. I’m sure you’ll agree that those of us in the developed world were simply born at the right time, and in the right place. We’re one of a very few lucky generations that has existed at a time in which the means to tap the earth’s resources (and profit from them) and the abundance of these spoils has seemed limitless.

One might hope that we would treasure such gifts, acting as guardians for our children, and theirs as well. Sadly, we’re squandering these riches, like gluttonous spoiled brats, with little consideration of anything (or anyone) else. We’ve subordinated a balanced order in favor of comical “advances” and “conveniences” like lathed carrots, which maintain uniform shape. Or, the novel practice of suctioning the fat from our asses and jamming it into our lips to meet artificial notions of beauty. And, don’t forget how we’ve created a concentrated version of “new car smell,” intended to simulate that wonderful fragrance of plastics and adhesives offgassing around us.

Illusions crumble

You can make any person do something seemingly mad, so long as you lead them down the path slowly and carefully enough. As one becomes more heavily invested in any situation, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to extricate themselves from it, as doing so would force them to face all the other flawed choices they had made. In such settings, it can seem easier to simply embrace the madness than challenge it and bring to question all that brought us to the current state.

I’d argue that we’re in just this sort of a “pickle”: as individuals, as nations, and as a society. We treat profit as our sole measure of economic health. We’ve bought into the myth that our excessive wealth doesn’t come at any cost to others. We have also held fast to the notion that the next thing (be it: car, house, suit, promotion, or raise) will somehow be the one that finally makes us happy. This last example seems to be the most odd of the lot: underscoring our inability to actually learn very much from our actions. We repeat this behavior ad infinitum, even in spite of the constant reminder that few material or monetary gains ever fill the voids we sometimes feel.

Even in light of such denial of the societal illness we’re caught in the grips of, it seems this illusion is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. Like those last moments of a dream, in which the images projected in our mind start to flicker and fail, the evidence of the error in our ways is becoming too overwhelming. Many of us are starting to wonder if we have been sold a false bill of goods.

What happened to “fair”?

In the midst of our single serving world, the discordance between our ideals and our actions becomes hard to reconcile. The American government bails out giants of industry, while a substantial part of the populace still protests universal health care. Isn’t that a sort of strange thing? In my old notions of a “capitalist meritocracy,” it seemed that corporations could take care of themselves, and governments were there to help ensure people didn’t fall between the cracks.

The notion of a sick child being turned away from a hospital, while a high paid CEO could ask for a “gimme” just doesn’t seem to compute. (Admittedly, health care seems to be undergoing reform in the United States, but not without a litany of outrage. The President is painted by many as some kind of lunatic “socialist”—as though democracy and capitalism were inextricably tied, and any other ideology or thinking is most decidedly un-American.)

I see that I’m probably falling into an old trap, of allowing my concern to become a little “ranty,” and perhaps hyperbolic. So, let me pull this back a little.

We all like to think that we’re fair and decent people; yes? Then tell me why we so often hold business up as a representation of our greatest collective accomplishment, yet, we fail to measure those corporations with the same scrutiny and expectations we’d expect of ourselves. Corporations can seemingly do as they please, recognized as “entities,” yet, often able to bypass taking full responsibility for their actions.

Indulge me here as I fall into my comfortable armchair: the analogy. Imagine that while you are at work tomorrow, I break into your house, strip the copper pipes from the walls (in order to sell them later), and leave the broken water lines gushing, ruining your most prized possessions: the family photos, the heirloom grandfather clock, even (gasp!) the beautiful new flat screen television.

My guess is that this would anger you—particularly if I later bragged about my “profits.” You’d call the authorities, feel (rightly) violated, have a difficult time falling asleep, and possibly even contemplate methods of retribution. You would most certainly demand some kind of justice, and if you weren’t able to achieve it, you might even take matters into your own hands.

Yet, a number of large corporations commit much graver acts daily. They sell us products engineered to fail, while making promises they could never realistically honor. They trick us into packages that cost more than is outwardly stated, or have dubious “fine print.” Worse than all of this, is that they so often make their wares by stripping materials from our most precious places, displacing communities and ecosystems, with little regard for anything other than shareholder value.

We should be very, very angry. We should be rising up, grabbing our chairs, and lobbing them at these groups in heated protest. We should be demanding our governments take action. We should be telling the guilty corporations to clean up the messes they’ve made, while putting them on trial for theft, misrepresentation, environmental atrocities, and a variety of human rights violations.

But instead we do nothing.

We’re addicted

I’ll admit it: topics like this are a complete and utter fucking drag. In fact, I likely sound like some kind of a crazy person, as I carry on. (If it makes you feel any better, I’d much rather be making design stuff, or, better yet, eating pizza, drinking beer, and watching porn.) The reason that I don’t, though, is that I can’t quite get past the notion that we’re most likely in very serious trouble.

We’re running out of clean water, wiping out whole species, have massive islands of plastic floating in our oceans, and (when I last checked), BP had barfed something like 4.9 million barrels of oil into our oceans. This is really just the tip of the iceberg—but all relatively good indications that we must take some kind of drastic action. Still, we sit, silently, tossing about phrases like “sustainability,” “social responsibility,” and “doing good,” as though uttering these words might somehow affect sufficient change.

Meanwhile, we seem incapable of even momentarily keeping ourselves from consuming. We’re like junkies with so many collapsed veins in our arms that we start looking for workable veins in between our toes. To an outsider it’s disgusting; to us, it has simply become a plain reality. It doesn’t matter where our stuff comes from, where it will go, or what someone else had to go through in order for us to have it. We’re addicts, and nothing’s coming between us and another “hit.”

We have “retail therapy,” an increasing list of things we “deserve,” and maybe even a little extra “me time” at the mall. And of course we do… because it’s easier to talk about the iPhone 4 and its lovely new display, than it is to ask whether our lust for new gadgets needs to be rethought in light of the conflict minerals they are most likely reliant upon. Similarly, it’s easier to point the finger at BP for their blunders, than it is for us to actually park our cars and instead sit on the bus next to “Mr. Stinky,” who perhaps treats baths as a “quarterly affair.” Fairness is inconvenient, so, we cast it aside and order another Big Mac (pity they don’t come in those neat styrofoam containers any longer).

Laziness, greed, and stupidity

When we watch trailers for new films, we’re presented with exciting (albeit silly) phrases like, “dark forces are gathering.” I’m of the mind that we find comfort in such sentiments. First of all, if there are “dark forces,” there are ostensibly “forces of good,” waiting to step in. More than that, the existence of a villain gives us someone to pin the blame on, absolving us of any responsibility.

My question is what happens if it turns out that movies are just movies, and epic struggles of “good and evil” are similarly rooted in fantasy? Could it be that there’s just us, clumsily trying to do our best, silently hoping for some kind of a superman to save our bacon?

My deep worry is that forces have in fact aligned, but instead of being comprised of “Disney-esque” villains, these forces are ones of laziness, greed, and stupidity. When we occasionally look past this thin illusion of “everything being OK,” that we’ve grown so accustomed to, we’re left facing a situation that is difficult to pawn off on anyone else. We’ve sown seeds with perilous consequences. Sadly, we’re too busy tweeting, obsessing over the amount of froth in our lattes, and asking whether we’ve “found ourselves,” to stop for a moment and ask, “is this all really worth the cost?”

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Comments & Trackbacks

  1. That was so well written and the content so poignant I could cry. Thank you for your eloquence.

  2. Travis Fleck says:

    You've eloquently expressed the feeling in my gut.

    I've found it surprising that when I try to discuss or share this information with close friends and family it is less about laziness, greed and stupidity and more about the willful ignorance and the shirking of responsibility.

    "I know it's bad but I'd rather not know about it because then I'd have to care and change my behavior."

    Maybe the type of fundamental societal changes you are talking about have to happen slowly and will over time.

  3. Scott Seiter says:

    We knew it was coming. If I'd've known then what I know now, maybe I'd've taken the blue pill; although the red one just brings you full circle to where you started! You wouldn't, however, have had the experience of knowing the difference; and the strength to make it through the real battle that is afoot.

  4. I will let George Carlin speak for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acLW1vFO-2Q
    And, more optimistically, Bill Hicks:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMUiwTubYu0

  5. Pingback: Tweets that mention ideasonideas - Eric Karjaluoto discusses design, brands and experience » Blog Archive » Dark Forces are Gathering -- Topsy.com

  6. Adam Mitchell says:

    It's been a pleasure seeing your progression of thought over the months since I first stumbled onto your blog. I, too, understand and commiserate with our collective quagmire and can't agree more with your gripes. We completely and utterly need to reassess our conceptions of how we live on this planet and contribute to its and our well-being. Thank you for your (all too often) articulate ideas on ideas.

  7. "We completely and utterly need to reassess our conceptions of how we live on this planet and contribute to its and our well-being." Very true, Adam. But how do you do that in a way that has any real impact? As it is, the system is rigged to keep us either complacent, confused, but always scared. And a few of us liberal fruitcakes forswearing all material possessions and living in a yurt isn't going to move the needle. Lobbying for legislation by raising a stink seems the only way to me, but I'm probably wrong. What is the best action to take? What are the 10 Commandments of Effecting Change?

  8. Eric Benson says:

    Sadly I'd have to agree with 100% of what is written. I do sense optimism from you, however small. I see it when I play with my 1-year old daughter or find someone going out of their way to help me carry something (however infrequent).
    We were conspired against by those in power after WWII to ditch our Puritan ways of conservation and consume as much as we could, because America won the war! We deserved it! Celebrate! Sigmund Freud's work co-opted by his nephew Edward Bernays became the psychological force that convinced us all to buy this machine called a toaster and smoke as they were "torches of liberty". My hope is that if really psychology got us here, it can help us escape.

    Here's how: we have to find happiness in spending our money not for things, but for experiences/moments. Although you need some good organic wine/food for a dinner with some friends, the time with them is priceless. It is vital for us to shift filling our feelings of emptiness with stuff and instead find happiness in moments and experiences. Capitalism probably won't end anytime soon, so you'll have to pay for these, but the "things" there will only be necessary for the event, not to fill our voids.

    Finally, I do also believe that in the end, the notion of design for obsolescence will go away by imperative. Eventually the minerals and resources we need daily to make technology and plastic spoons will reach a tipping point where companies will be forced to shift their models to durability, modularity, rental and reuse in order to sustain themselves. I do agree sustainability is overused and at times, just a word. However, we are annoyed by it because the media presents it to us in the wrong way. It talks about "eco-friendly" as sustainable with paper towels and cars, that you MUST by buy. Instead the discussion of sustainability is not about what to buy, but consuming at all. If we were more aware, you would skip the latte.

    Eric, great article. One of the best I've read in a while. I will pass it along.

  9. Scott Seiter says:

    We need to create and demonstrate our own closed, stable, working system of economy, government, education, etc; and slowly incorporate outsiders in. I have the solution, I just need to elaborate with liked minded individuals who aren't in it for ego satisfaction, rank, power, wealth or any of the old illusions of success; those that landed us in this position of weakness in the first place.

    I've been working on this for years and haven't shared it with a single soul, yet. Only the new age thinkers, those who know their actions go farther than the eye can see, can handle the task at hand.

    Contact me if anyone is interested. Don't be surprised if I ask a million questions: I just need to make sure I know where your heart is before I share the solution.

    The key is pulling out the weeds and pruning the old to allow the real growth to happen; only then, will fruit form. In time, the whole garden will flourish.

  10. Welcome back.

  11. Brooke van Mossel-Forrester says:

    This is such a fantastically charged post! I rarely comment on anything, but this just hits the nail on the head.

    I've felt a strong sense of urgency over the state of the planet since I was a kid, although now I'm much better at understanding it. The way our society lives - the expectations of success and wealth and happiness - it's all backwards! When we put greater value on community experiences, the beauty of nature, time with our family and our planet's future, we become less concerned by 'things'. And when we put more thought into how we build and use and dispose of our things, we have a lot less garbage piling up!

    I think there is actually a great movement of people who do care, who want to change, who are acting on their beliefs. I keep reading articles like yours, Eric, that point out the hypocrisy and greed - but there are so many who are working against this! While I need this type of thought-provoking, challenging article, I urge you (and us all) to look at the positive actions going on around us, the work of the 'good guys', and promote, support and praise their work when possible.

    What about networks and resources like http://www.livingprinciples.org/, http://www.storyofstuff.com/ or http://inhabitat.com/ where you can learn and be inspired and awed by the creativity flowing into positive change?

    I can't wait for the day when the 'alternative', 'green' or 'eco' is the standard; when people pay the real cost for goods, accounting for environmental and social damage; when big oil is a thing of the past. But our future is now, and our actions as global citizens must reflect this - now!

  12. Eric Benson says:

    Scott, sounds intriguing...

  13. Nicely put, Eric.

    Stay good...

  14. JMiller says:

    Quite good, and I'll probably be quoting it in the near future.

    The fundamental problem is that it's easier to dupe millions of people into believing in pleasing individualistic things than it is to convince them that they are collectively capable of good things. One of the most ridiculous things I've read in some time was a suggestion that corporations shouldn't, say, fund research for a malaria vaccine, but should instead distribute the funding to the people who might need the vaccine and let them decide if they want to fund the vaccine or would rather, oh say, spend it on "eating pizza, drinking beer, and watching porn." (see book: "Creative Capitalism") Because while people hate to see things laid to waste (by malaria?) what people hate more, even to the point where they're willing to lay things to waste, is the notion that they've been hosed and/or treated unfairly. (see book: "Drive" by Daniel Pink) Put another way, if half of the people put their funding into finding a cure for malaria and the other half go the pizza route, then the people who wanted to cure malaria will become resentful of everything involved while their seeing the instant gratification of their peers that behaved selfishly, compounded by the time it takes to get any results from their larger collective venture -- assuming that results are possible with "inadequate funding," the lack of which would be another sore spot in the scenario.

    What it all comes down to is "Pitted against the selfishness of Those People Over There, my attempts at selflessness and sacrifice would only inconvienence me and reduce my ability to compete and accomplish, so why bother taking it seriously? If I'm a bit better than TPOT, then I'm still going to be a bit better than TPOT even if I'm not as good as That Iconic Person From Long Ago (who didn't have as hectic of a life as I do)." That kind of individual granularity is a depressingly hard thing to get over, past or around, especially when there are lucrepaths on the loose who just plain don't care about anything other than accumulating psuedo-wealth and alleged-control.

  15. Great article Eric. I always admire people who can articulate complex and meaningful ideas in a intriguing and expressive prose.

    I agree on everything you said. It feels like a con game. Once you find out what the game is you have to make a moral judgement of your own on. Do I play the game willingly knowing the damage I'm doing. Life is comfortable and I probably will not see the ultimate effects in my life time. Or do I take action, go against the grain and sacrifice myself to something that improves the situation for future humanity.

    Who knows if this is really a moral judgement? Like you said are there white hats and dark hats and does it matter? The thing that keeps me driving forward to help slowly defer this massive descent our civilization is headed for (which is unavoidable, but can be effected) is my kids. In the end, I want to able to say to them I did everything I could to make things better for them which will not be as good as I had it. Now, I know this is a trap and probably the same thing that 40's and 50's era parents were saying to themselves when trying to build their fortunes on cheap fossil fuel. If these things we are doing to create a more sustainable civilization end up causing more problems, then the next generation will have to wake up from that con. But at least we are asking the questions and willing to do something versus letting life carry us along and the more people we inspire to do the same the better chances we have.

  16. Tip-top Mr. K.

    Every compelling and transformational story begins with an unasked question...

    The earth is flat. It's the centre of the universe. Of course we can't fly. Everything's fine, just fine.

    An unasked question needs no answers. Thanks for asking.

    Here's to more, asking more.

    Thanks.

  17. Pingback: Robert L. Peters » Dark Forces are Gathering

  18. Adam Mitchell says:

    Well, difficulties of this kind are inherently problematic especially in the get-go, but at least we agree that there is a problem (that’s a start!). So, where do we begin? Do we get angry and ‘fight back’? Are we so scared that we isolate ourselves from it in hopes it just goes away? Or do we create something new and make the existing model obsolete (thanks Bucky). I don’t have all the answers, but here are some thoughts.

    @Travis Fleck – “Maybe the type of fundamental societal changes you are talking about have to happen slowly and will over time.” I think that is a valid point. The past shows us that societies don’t make huge changes or jumps in consciousness, but rather evolve over time, as change is the enemy of the status quo, the comfortable, and what just ‘works’. Maybe for us truly to ‘learn’ from our mistakes, we need to have our collective face rubbed in them for it finally to stick (i.e. economic / environmental / societal collapse?) Certainly a lot of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ have been shed along the way for us to get even here. That being said, ‘evolution’ shouldn’t be a scapegoat that we fall back on for lack of courage; we now know what we are doing to the world and to each other, and it is our responsibility to do something about it.

    @Stefan G. Bucher – “As it is, the system is rigged to keep us either complacent, confused, but always scared.” Good point: the system is rigged and it can be scary, but we must remember that human beings made this system and human beings can change it. Capitalism and the Everyone for Themselves model are not laws of nature.

    Likewise, I totally agree that just isolating yourself from the madness of system by going completely off the grid, growing 100% of your own food, or living in yurt in Vermont (it’s ok, I’m a Vermonter)—while honorable in themselves—is not going to help anyone, even yourself, in the long run. We all live here together; there is only so far you can run. In making change, we must consider all people: Am I making change under the assumption of Everyone for Themselves or The Highest Good for All? Let’s not placate ourselves by only replacing our light bulbs, eating organic foods from Whole Foods, or even recycling—no amount of reaction-based schemes will solve our conundrum until we start looking at the root problems and prevent them in the first place.

    Here are a few root problems and issues that overlap as well as some very promising solutions:

    The Monetary System – Systemic beginning of many of our problems as well as misconceptions of human nature. See: http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com (read the understandings and watch the Zeitgeist: Addendum)

    Consumption vs. Production – Is our ultimate purpose in life to consume? Or do we need to start producing sustainable (sorry), open-source, lifetime products? Here’s some people who are think the latter and need our support: http://openfarmtech.org/weblog/

    Everyone for Themselves vs. The Highest Good for All – The intrinsic problem with government and nationalism is that the whole system revolves around partisanship and ‘againstness’. How communities could transform the world. See: http://www.communityplanet.org/

    Us vs. Them and Integral Theory – It’s obvious that we cannot truly change what must be changed by simply rallying against one or a couple of issues. In order to have true change we need include everyone and everything (the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly). Read: http://wilber.shambhala.com/ for a united approach.

    The Psychology of Change - Right now change is seen to mean a life with less - less enjoyment, material comfort, wealth, and so on. We need to show that it's actually life with more - more of the things that really matter and create meaning, community and fulfillment in our lives. See: Permaculture and The Transition Town movement (http://www.transitiontowns.org/).

    See, there are many things that we can and need to do—right now. Really, though, we don’t need to be scared, we don’t need to get (too) angry and we don’t need to assign blame—even to ourselves. Maybe our collective paralysis is because of the perceived enormity of the problem. Maybe in our attempts to communicate the problems, we obfuscate the solutions. Maybe it doesn’t have to be so difficult. Like Bill Hicks said, “It's just a ride….and we can change it anytime we want. It's only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. A choice, right now, between fear and love.”

  19. Rachel says:

    Brilliant post, thank you.

    It can be so depressing when you start to understand what we're doing to ourselves, others and the planet - and even moreso when you think that no one will change.

    So instead, exactly like Adam says, just change yourself. My husband and I know what goes into our food, know where our clothes come from, are involved in our local Transition Town, know what happens to our waste when it is collected. And I know this may sound ultra cliche, but it does impact our families and friends views too. It becomes normal.

    I've realised the biggest way one person can change behaviour is through your local supermarket. They respond when they fear a customer will walk away. For example, if you want organic or fairtrade goods, tell them that you will go else if they don't stock it, then they will stock it. And when they do, others will also buy it because others will be wanting it, but just not speaking up yet.

  20. Pingback: Weekly Gems and Recap « Marketing Matters | Jason Sokol

  21. I couldn't agree more. Little do we know that helpless is only a state of mind.

  22. Jan Vertrese says:

    Whether you live a life with less still depends largely on you as a person. In any event Anything that spreads, wins!

  23. Pingback: ideasonideas - Eric Karjaluoto discusses design, brands and experience » Blog Archive » Rethinking Stuff

  24. how ip address says:

    I couldn't agree more. Little do we know that helpless is only a state of mind.
    thank you

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