Originally posted on Lavish. Sometimes I surprise even my self.
I’m not sure how I came to this topic but I was thinking about an article I read which said that, despite our technological status, Americans tend to be the most depressed and suicidal. (Or something. It was a while back.) We have every amenity, every comfort, every gadget, every device to cater to our every whim and we are still unhappy. Generally the blame lies with those very same converniences which wind up making our life more hectic and chaotic but, if that were the case, then why would it just be the western world which falls into this pattern?
It has occurred to me that the problem with Americans is not the overabundance of electronics and technology (though they do their part to make us malcontent and lazy, evolution is only natural) but the overabundance of the sense of self. It’s a flaw which I first recognize in myself but am able to see in my peers but, to me, it’s significantly less apparent in those of other cultures and of those Americans who are older (which makes sense, you’ll see).
We are selfish and that’s pretty average these days but that’s not the problem. That’s perhaps part of the cause and the perpetuation but it’s not the problem itself. We have grown complacent (yes, partly because of our evolution and convenient lives) and our survival depends less on giving ourselves.
It used to be that you had to give of yourself for many things to insure survival of safety. You had to give yourself to your job/role either as caretaker of children or provider of food and in a world of abundance, even those who are in poor conditions are still better off than humans used to be years and years ago. From sunrise to sunset, life revolved around insuring the survival of yourself and your family and, if that was fine and dandy, then you would help your neighbours, your community. You were constantly giving of yourself because you had to.
Then came evolution. Tools, greater numbers, travel and communication with others. We progressed, as is expected. One should be more worried if we hadn’t really. Life became easier so there was time to breathe and one didn’t have to constantly look over one’s shoulder. Generally, these were things which were shared and families and communities tended to move forward as a whole, though sharing this knowledge with outsider might cost a pretty penny – here we see “self” creeping in, though it’s minuscule.
I stress that it’s not that we have more time for ourselves or that we are evolving that is a negative thing but what one does with one’s time and how one treats knowledge can be completely negative. Having all the time in the world but doing nothing but things which bring immediate satisfaction or nothing at all – just wasting time – are just that, a waste of time. And while I certainly don’t expect anyone to put everyone else above them self, putting oneself over everyone else is just as bad especially when it comes to knowledge which can improve others’ lives vastly but you are only willing to share that knowledge for immense personal gain.
I think that’s what happened with the vast majority of people. It wasn’t necessary to give of ourselves and it became easier to skip over the opportunities to volunteer oneself for the greater cause, if you will. I wouldn’t say we’re all cutthroats but I do think that American society, in general, has this great sense of self, of identity, of individuality and while everyone needs to have a sense of self – we keep so much of ourself by not giving of ourself – the amount of self we have now is detrimental.
Is it survival of the fittest to focus solely on me? Or does survival of the fittest actually point to survival of a species, not the individual? When we depend on machines, aren’t the machines actually living our lives for us? And while I recognize the many benefits this has, I can just as easily see this running us straight into the ground, literally.
What the vast majority of technology seems to be working toward are comforts and efficiencies for the individual and I while I don’t want to overlook the efforts made by individuals and companies for the betterment of mankind, it seems that a lot more could be done if we stopped manufacturing MP3 players, computers, digital cameras, cell phones, and robotic vacuum cleaners and pooled our resources to ending (or at least improving the quality of life when it comes to some of these things) famine, poverty, cancer, AIDS et cetera.
Or perhaps the reason we see such advances when it comes to the technology of the individual is because it’s so much easier (cheaper?) to advance there rather than on such a grand scale. Perhaps only so much can be done when it comes to certain causes. I am doubtful, still. To me, it seems that capitalism and self-gain are all too motivating and most people, myself included, are all too capable of forgetting about someone in distress when it comes to making a buck or sitting pretty.
One could argue that one works 8 (or 10 or 12) hours a day and must come home to feed and take care of one’s family and, while that all is true, we’re not slaving in the sun over fields that must success or our survival is bleak. We’re not protecting our lean-to homes from other human raiders or animals which would kill us or eat our food supply. Somehow we feel that we are working hard and stretched thin yet we’re doing so much less than our ancestors – how does that work?!
Somewhere in the equation, we’re still left with a whole lot more “self” than people used to have and when one has all that “self” it must be significant. If it’s significant, it must be stressed. It must be thought about. I find myself thinking about myself often, perpetuating my “self.” Perhaps because we expect our “self” to be so significant, we give it more credit than it should deserve. Perhaps we over think it, causing more problems than there really are. We have so much “self,” it must be for a reason, right? That reason couldn’t possibly be that we need to give that self away.
We are so aware of ourselves, our identities. Too aware, I think. It can’t be healthy that one’s own self would be the focus of one’s attentions the way it currently is. When one has naught but one’s self with which to occupy one, no wonder one should be so distraught and feel, so often, sad, depressed or discontent with life.
And though I use myself as an example, I do not see this as a personal flaw or as something which begins and ends with myself. Rather I see this as the general state of this society. I see this has become the norm and, if not accepted, it’s certainly condoned by the masses.
It would only make sense that too much “self” would be the undoing of ourselves, that our complacency would be our own undoing, that our sloth would be the cause of our own unhappiness even if, outwardly, it would seem the exact opposite should be the case.
And so, how do we rid ourselves of extra “self?” Do we give up our humanly possessions? Do we force ourselves to do more than is necessary? I must admit that I like my MP3 player, my computer et cetera and I would be far from the first running to a third world country to lend a hand. And would it even help if everyone gave it all up or would be simply be resentful?
Perhaps this is a mistake from which mankind will learn, even if it takes some years. Perhaps it shall be our downfall. Perhaps I am completely wrong. Perhaps we are exactly where we should be. Perhaps, maybe, if – what good does any of it do anyway? It’s all just speculation.