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The Modern Dilemma

Ville Kokko

Posted on October 19, 2018 04:59

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The past was terrible and we do not want to go back there. But the present is terrible in ways that the past was not.

Be warned that the following will be hyberbolic and very oversimplified to make a point. Still, I think the point itself is quite true.

As we moved into the modern era, we abandoned some things we shouldn't have abandoned, and created new problems that never existed before. At the same time, we made huge leaps that made life better in ways that were never possible before.

This means that the past was terrible compared to the present, but, at the same time, the present is terrible compared to the past.

In the past, humanity was much more powerless in the face of natural calamities. We had no real medicine and were killed and maimed by infectious diseases. We lived a few steps away from starvation and had few material comforts. We understood very little about the universe and wasted our time trying to affect it by magic and ritual.

When they formed, social structures were oppressive. Everyone was forced to live like their parents and believe like everyone else. Stepping out of line was severely punished because social cohesion was vital for survival. There was no concept of universal human rights, and violence was commonplace.

When we grew up to be modern, we advanced in all these areas. Medicine and other science made us healthier and better able to survive and gave us more knowledge. Technology gave us better mastery over nature. Farming gave us more food. We developed universal ethics and a system of international law and national law enforcement. People became free to express their individual selves. Material luxury increased.

However...

Now that people are no longer given a ready place in the world, most still aren't prepared to think it out for themselves. They get confused and try to patch their inner emptiness with shallow materialism, or retreat into old-time religion that no longer works. Science gives us factual answers but not spiritual ones, and people confuse the two, either becoming spiritless or putting religion in the place of science.

Now that we have power over nature, we're overconsuming and unbalancing it, sending the whole ecosystem into a downward spiral. Gaining material luxury means we're spending our time working to buy stuff we don't need.

Now that we can consume what food we like, we keep consuming sugar and other substances that used to be available only occasionally. We do other things that are not "natural" to us, too, because it's more fun or is just a habit. Infectious diseases are down, but lifestyle diseases take their place.

We used to have a strong sense of community and keep it up by being hostile to outsiders. Now, we have no sense of community and pretend not to be hostile to outsiders.

We used to have to fight for our lives to kill animals for sustenance. Now, we mass-torture them for luxury eating.

Neither option is good. Can we even imagine a future that avoids the pitfalls of both the past and the present?

We'd better.

Ville Kokko

Posted on October 19, 2018 04:59

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Source: The Guardian

The Future of Work and Death documentary questions the real consequences of our preoccupation with progress for its own sake...

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