Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ten things I hate about the world.

Oh, sure, they aren't the only ten things. But it's a place to start. These are ten things I thought of when I started thinking about the question, "What is really wrong with the world we live in?"

Assertion 0. Just thinking about this has value.

I am about to tell you many scary and provocative things. They do demand action, but even if you find yourself unable to act, just being aware of the problem is a huge step in the right direction. And even if the situation is hopeless, our humanity begs—no, it demands—that we try. If you start to get frightened or overwhelmed, keep that in mind.

Assertion 1. The existential crisis.

If we do not change something radically, then our civilization will collapse. This collapse has a high probability of causing humans to become extinct. But it may also severely damage the planet’s capability of supporting any life at all.

Assertion 2. The overculture sucks.

Our culture is so pervasive and hijacks all other cultures that the only proper term for it is overculture. Whatever it is, it sucks. It dehumanizes us. We are indoctrinated to hate ourselves, other people, other creatures, our planet. We trade comfort for giving others the power to enslave us. We are not free. The worst part of it is that we are misled into thinking we are.

Assertion 3. We have abandoned wisdom.

Few people are now able to think at all, much less critically. Of those who can, few ever feel like doing it. Of those who do, few do it well. There are so few people thinking well that they do not have enough people capable of listening and understanding and constructively criticizing. This means that their thinking doesn’t matter, because few people realize that such thinking has any value. The worst part of it is that most people falsely believe they are wise.

Assertion 4. The overculture seems malevolently alive.

The overculture is so complex that it resembles a living thing in and of itself. It is a predator, however—it consumes and destroys our humanity. It seems to identify threats and quickly adapt to them. I believe it has a fatal weakness—in the same way that kryptonite is lethally toxic to Superman, wisdom is fatally toxic to the overculture. The overculture is keenly aware of this and does everything it can to prevent the formation of wisdom.

Assertion 5. The hierarchy.

The overculture depends on a brutal hierarchy, a hierarchy of decreasing human value. Those higher on the hierarchy get to take anything they want from the people below them. This is called “business.” Those below do not have the right to resist this. If they try, they are called “criminals.” If they do so violently, they may be called “terrorists.” In case of resistance from people below, those above have the right to imprison or kill those below. This is called “justice.” This hierarchy is enforced with violence, but the culture does everything it can to hide or explain away that fact. This process is called the “rule of law.” The result is called “order.”

Assertion 6. The cultural anti-axiology.

If our culture has any axiology at all, it has two—death is better than life, and sexuality is a great tool for dehumanizing people. Since axiology is a study of value, and these two things are inimical to the idea of value, maybe we should call them the “anti-axiology.”

Assertion 7. We must transform the overculture or destroy it.

It may be possible to transform the overculture. Maybe we could evolve it into a vibrant and life-serving culture. But maybe we can’t. If we can’t, we must destroy it utterly, without regard for what might replace it, if anything. This is a gamble—if we try to transform it when we should’ve destroyed it, we might become extinct, and all life might become extinct. We need to figure this out as soon as possible.

Assertion 8. Technology sucks, but maybe it doesn’t have to.

Currently, technology is a major force in making us miserable rather than making us happier. This may or may not be an inherent feature of technology. We need to figure this out as soon as possible, before we create technology that destroys all life. I sometimes worry it may be too late already. In any case, we must demand that technology serves us—ALL OF US—rather than the converse. If we are not successful, we must destroy it. ALL OF IT, except what might be developed by a Stone Age or possibly medieval culture.

Assertion 9. Even if we fail, the fight is worth it in and of itself.

Yes, this is really the same as Assertion #0, repeated as a reminder. You could call this my lingering romanticism. Even if the situation is hopeless, our humanity begs—no, it demands—that we try.

If that wasn't enough to seriously scare you, then frankly, I don't know what could possibly scare you. More likely, it scares you too much.

I will probably spend the next several weeks posting short vignettes of experience to support the reasoning behind the assertions. Maybe I will make them better. Maybe my vignettes will coalesce into something resembling an actual argument. Maybe I will develop a philosophical framework to begin thinking of ways to understand these problems and act on them.

You can help, too. The first way you can help is to admit that these are things worth thinking about. Maybe you can leave some comments about your thoughts on these things. And maybe you can share some of my better ideas in your own blogs and social media sites.

The very first step in changing it is to start talking about it. Eventually we will need to act, but we won't know how to act until we understand what we are facing.

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