If I have one complaint about the world I live in it is this – that it no longer exists for people – but for something else we cannot define – except we know it is not us. People now live for something that is not them. And not surprisingly, they are not satisfied with their lives.
But they are not permitted to know this. “You have everything you could possibly want,” They are told, “So you must be satisfied with your life.” And so they go on, getting more and more things – but living empty lives.
I am hardly the first person to notice this – people have been saying this for thousands of years. You could even say that being dissatisfied is part of human nature.
But beginning about the middle of the 19th Century it reached critical proportions. And for the best of reasons – the Modern world was breaking up.
I am now taking a MOOC about Kierkegaard and in week six it is finally hitting its stride – in The Crisis of Modernity. As I see it, this is about society becoming inhuman – not interested in people. Thinkers like Kierkegaard and Nietzsche struggled with this problem – but were ignored. And are still being ignored.
I can be justly accused of this attitude myself – after all, I have been writing about the importance of the Computer Cloud. But I have also been writing (as I am right now) of the importance of people. Even Bill Gates, the ultimate nerd, is beginning to recognize this. And saying that the Market Economy needs to be modified to meet the needs of people – especially the poor people who are flooding the globe.
How this is to be done, he does not say – but there are plenty of concrete things that could be done. If we could only decide to concentrate on our selves. Which we now feel to be defective – in comparison to our marvelous new inventions. This, as I see it – is our big problem – we have become obsessed with our Televisions and our Computers – and are neglecting our selves.
Allow me to digress for a moment. I have been saying unkind things about Costa Rica, where I now live. But it is also true that in its Revolution of 1947, its leaders were determined to make Costa Rica a social welfare state. And as a result, it became the most affluent country in Central America. Its public health service, for example, makes a mockery of the American system – with its outrageous costs.
The reason for this is not hard to see. A society that concentrates on making money – to the exclusion of everything else – is bound to be inhuman. There is a movement (centered at Stanford University) to make Business more socially aware – but as far as I am aware – it hasn’t accomplished very much.
And this is the situation we have now – with one important refinement – we are forbidden to notice this – so we don’t. Like people everywhere, since the beginning of time – we know the ground rules – and we follow them. If we are not supposed to notice people – we don’t notice people and their needs.