For quite a few years, I have had a running commentary in my head. I suffer from bouts of existential angst, usually in the wee small hours. Originally I thought it just my Grumpy Old Man (GOM) chunterings about the futility and cussedness of most of what I do on a daily basis. However, I have gradually come to the realisation that it is a little more fundamental.
For many years I have looked around me at all the other folk heading to and from work. I have sat on boats, trains and planes on Friday evenings watching people work on their laptops or listening to Sam Supersales having a loud conversation with Head Office about the order for Widgets Inc. I have watched countless films and documentaries, a good part of which have folk sitting in cars, on trains, planes or buses heading to or from work.
My running commentary asks what on earth is so important that we need legions of people moving about the planet to do it, whatever it is ? And at such a pace. And what value does all this frenetic activity actually add to human existence ? In short, WHAT’S THE BLOODY POINT ? If the spreadsheet isn’t finished, or the Widgets Inc order is delayed, what does it matter. The Earth will continue to spin, the sun will come up tomorrow.
Very rarely have I seen someone who appears to be content.
The Grumpy answer is that for most folk their lives are crap.
They work at a job they don’t like, doing something that is probably pointless, reporting to a witless goon. They engage on a regular basis with muddle-headed bureaucracy which does nothing other than to increase their blood pressure. They are married with a couple of crotch fruit, but only because that’s what mummy and the rest of the world expected.
They go home to a house that is a clone of the box next door, eat the same mass-produced semi nutritious food and fall asleep in front of the telly where some air-headed Oprah clone is telling them in faintly patronising tones to get in touch with their feelings. Five days out of seven.
The other two, they are mercifully released from the toils and spend the time meandering about a local hypermarket in a shell suit complaining about the missing barcodes on the stuff they have bought. They have lost the capacity for simple enjoyment.
While that view is true to an extent I now think it is not the whole story, but an externalisation of some innermost knowledge our ancestral genes are giving us.
Our lives are crap because we are disassociated from them. We go through life on automatic pilot, driven by the needs and desires of others. We act according to their expectations. We clothe, feed and entertain ourselves according to their instructions. All without consciously knowing it.
As a result we lead drearily similar existences in our directed boxes. To a great extent the extended family is no more. Apart from a bit of occasional weeding we don’t interact with the environment other than to eat it. We don’t really produce anything of lasting value, except perhaps our offspring. Even so, once they are past about seven, we don’t understand them.
I am struggling with expressing a concept here, but the basic idea is that as Eisenstein says, all our activities are directed towards acquiring money so we can buy more things. We do not, in general actually add any value to anything. We are eerily robotically similar. We do find someone different, and our immediate urge is to change them to fit into the mould.
What does an insurance clerk, or a marketing executive or a software programmer actually add to the sum total of human happiness. Not a lot, I guess in comparison with a farmer, a shoemaker, a builder, someone who actually takes two somethings, and creates a new something from them, thereby adding value to it.
A probably bad, and certainly flawed analogy, but I hope you get the picture. If most of us were to vanish overnight, not much would change.
That’s why I am grumpy. I am tired of punching the jelly and. I just can’t be bothered anymore, and can’t see why anyone else should be bothered either.