Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Lonely Borg

The Lonely Crowd
"After the Industrial Revolution America had succeeded in developing a middle-class state...Instead of living according to traditions, or conforming to the values of organized religion, of the family, or societal codes, the new middle class gradually adopted a malleability in the way people lived with each other."

"I'm malleable"
"So am I"

Gradually an other-direction took hold, that is, the social forces of how others were living—what they consumed, what they did with their time, what their views were toward politics, work, play, and so on...Because large organizations preferred this type of personality, it became indispensable to the institutions that thrived with the growth of industry in America"

The Lonely Crowd also argues that society dominated by the other-directed faces profound deficiencies in leadership, individual self-knowledge, and human potential."

What Riesman was describing was the consumption oriented society. One that evaluates itself on a relative basis rather than an absolute basis. Now, buried deep down the rabbit hole of self-indulgence, wholly incapable of objective rationality. Always following the norms of the day no matter how convoluted or corrupt. "It's always been this way", the abiding mantra. The underlying meaning of which, shifting sands beneath their feet. The first derivative being "stay the course". The second derivative being collapse in broad daylight. Because everyone knows that in a fool's errand there is "strength in numbers".

From a mental health standpoint, the situation gets far more dire. A society cleaved from traditional norms, communities replaced by shopping malls, and a society of corporate programmed automatons incapable of thinking for themselves. Self-medicated with every kind of addiction ever invented. No inner self. Paranoia running rampant. Mass shootings an accepted norm. Conspiracy theories abound. The ad-sponsored anti-social media churning out weaponized fake news targeted to a malleable audience.

A society now judging rationality against a baseline of ubiquitous insanity.

Corporations cleaved these people of their traditional roots and then abandoned them at the side of the road. Lost and lonely. Even in the largest crowd, not knowing who to trust. Everyone out for their own personal gain. Believing all of society is a zero sum game.

Morality inverted from altruism to self.

An historical experiment gone wrong.

Now a Trumptopian endgame tragicomedy by way of punishing the hairless monkey for infantile levels of arrogance.

"The culture of greed is the hallmark of the neoliberal era...Advocates of neoliberalism worked to reshape global capitalism by freeing transnational corporations from restrictive forms of state regulation, stripping away government efforts to redistribute wealth and provide public services, and emphasizing individual responsibility over social concern. From the 1980s to 2008, neoliberal politics and policies succeeded in expanding inequality around the world. The political climate Ayn Rand celebrated—the reign of brutal capitalism—intensified."

We have to understand where it all went wrong. At first it was about personal responsibility. To work and to aspire. But then it ultimately morphed into personal responsibility to exploit and acquire. When it made that "shift" was during the quarter when the quarter couldn't be made.

The belief in perpetual growth of wealth in a finite world. Turned into a zero sum game. Go figure.

Spoiler alert:
The story of people who believe in self-interest at the expense of broader society, does not end well.