Oct 27

Crisis!

the opioid crisis epidemic is gripping the nation!

 

The “opioid crisis” is gripping the nation. President Trump has announced that it is a national emergency requiring extraordinary measures or something. In 2015, 33000 people died from overdoses of opiate drugs.

The narrative of the opioid crisis epidemic goes like this:

“Doctors were always reluctant to prescribe opioid pain medications because they were aware of the risks of addiction. But the makers of OxyContin, the Sackler family, created a marketing campaign based on creating confusion between codeine, a relatively weak painkiller, and oxycodone, a relatively strong one. They also lobbied the FDA to make it seem like time-release pills are less addictive, paid doctors to give talks claiming pain is under-treated, and did other bad stuff. Doctors started to prescribe tons of pain meds, regulation of pill-mill doctors was lax, and tons of innocent people’s lives were ruined by addiction while the Sackler family lined their pockets with 14 billion dollars.”

But while the Slacker family are clearly shitheads, their behavior is impeccable under the logic of capitalism. The reason we have an “opioid epidemic” isn’t because of the unscrupulous behavior of a few people who wanted to get rich. As such, the way to “solve” this crisis isn’t to force the said family to subsidize addiction treatment centers. This narrative is a red herring in the fullest sense—a distraction from the truth, which is as always much less palatable to everyone involved, and harder to fix.

The truth is that when people get addicted, they are getting something from their drug of choice that is preferable, for the moment, to their regular, un-addicted existence. Relatively content people don’t usually look to escape their reality, they invest and participate in it, enjoy it and try to suss it out. The fact that so many of us are trying our damnest to escape our supposedly state of the art reality gives away the truth.

Our present way of life in 2017 is traumatic for many of us, for different reasons. Psychologically and emotionally, we aren’t built to live the way we do. The biggest problems for so many of us are loneliness, aimlessness, and disconnection from life. Perhaps unsurprisingly, opiate drugs alleviate these precise feelings. Drug users find that opiates envelop them in a physical, psychological, and emotional warmth and security.

In highschool, I was taught about experiments where rats where given cocaine and heroin at the press of a button. The rats would then just keep pressing the button to get instant drugs until they starved to death. Turns out, things are not quite so black and white: in subsequent experiments the rats would be offered the option of returning to their rat brothers and cousins. Yeah, I bet you thought that they had that option the whole time, as I did! When they told us about this in highschool, we were led to assume these rats are the equivalents of regular, innocent people—normal in every way, spending their innocent days playing with other rats and munching on garbage and babies, or whatever it is rats do. Then one day, one of them spots a new object in the rat-house: a big shiny red button. The curious rat pushes the button, and its brain is flooded with dope. From that moment on, this rat is gonna ignore its rat friends and rat pleasures, stand in front of that button and press it until it keels over. Another one bites the dust—drugs are awful, bro.

But that’s not what happened at all. The rats were kept isolated in tiny cages, and when these miserable animals were given drugs, they took them. In experiments where the rats were kept with other rats in bigger cages, they didn’t. More than that, when the rats that were addicted to drugs in small isolation cages were returned to their groups, they would choose to go through withdrawal and do regular rat things rather than stay on drugs. Rats prefer doing regular rat things with their rat friends and relatives to getting opiates and cocaine on demand, even if already addicted.

People prefer doing regular people things with friends and relatives over becoming (and remaining) addicted to hard drugs as well. Count that as axiomatic.

What are these regular people things? Whatever individual things we like to do, we all need to have connection to others of our own kind and to ourselves. This means physical and emotional connection, and for at least some, intellectual connection. That may well be enough. Sometimes purpose and self-esteem are mentioned, but I’ve begun to think that these arise organically on their own from a meaningful relationship to our family and community.

When people are choosing to get high consistently and in large numbers, you can bet they are trapped in situations analogous to the rats in tiny isolation cages, physically or psychologically, or both. This being the case, you won’t have much success treating their addiction with methadone or suboxone and therapy. We use drugs because we are isolated and prevented from doing human things with humans, so obviously until our lives are such that we can do these things, we will be inclined to look for any ways to escape the shitty reality we are trapped in. When treatment is successful, it is always because in one way or another the addict is able to get these things back into their life. Otherwise, all you can do is substitute the mechanism by which they will try to escape their realities.

Good luck with that! If improving our lives was on anyone’s agenda, maybe these things would be considered and discussed. It’s not like I’m writing the theory of special relativity here, these things are well known to anyone with half an eye on their world. They are known to scientists who give dope to rats. They are certainly known to whoever is in charge of making sure we continue to work all day and buy shit we don’t need in our free time. Doesn’t look like we’ll be talking about it anytime soon.

Nov 11

Anti-Technology Revolution

fight the power

 

Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How
Theodore John Kaczynski
Fitch & Madison Publishers, 2016

Ted Kaczynski’s new book is divided roughly into two parts, as indicated by the title: the why, and the how. Looking at the two parts separately allows for a more generous reading of the book, so that’s what I’ll do.

The first two chapters deal with why modern society is bound to fail. I share the conviction that this is, sadly, all but an inevitability with TJK, and appreciate much of his analysis. In chapter 1, probably the most convincing chapter of the book, TJK makes the assertion that “the development of a society can never be subject to rational human control” (the chapter’s title). This is a logical place to start for an analysis of our civilization’s future, and the arguments in favor of this notion are convincing and plentiful, perhaps more so to someone already on board with the idea, but I think, with a little work, to any rational person. Our leaders are, by their own admissions and all available evidence, always playing catch-up with current events. They mostly react to what happens, and preferentially plan for the immediate and near-term future, and only marginally for the long-term.

One of the most important ideas of the book is introduced in this chapter. Competition between what TJK calls “self-propagating systems” (certain institutions, corporations, agencies, but also ideas, organizations, movements) works in such a way as to privilege short-term planning at the expense of survival in the long term. So, if a group of companies are competing in a certain area, they are under constant pressure from their competitors to use available resources with no thought for the future. If one of them decides not to extract resources as fast as is possible, they are quickly out-competed by the rest, which are all the while growing through reckless resource management. Of course, the combined rapacity of the competing companies will also condemn them to failure when they exhaust all available resources.

TJK chooses the unfortunate name “natural selection” for this process of competition between corporations, governments, nations, and movements. It is unfortunate for a number of reasons, one of which is the fact that the interaction of international corporations and nation-states is only partially competitive: John Kenneth Galbraith argued convincingly in The New Industrial State and The Affluent Society that the relations of the biggest corporations are characterized largely by, if not cooperation, than a sort of detente. This should be self-evident in regard to nation-states. So, the dynamic described by TJK where short-term, rapacious planning is privileged due to cut-throat competition doesn’t apply at the level of the biggest players, since they are in most cases not competing, which opens a window of possibility for those interested in salvaging a little of our poor planet.

There are many other problems with the use of “natural selection” here. It is a vague term when applied outside of its biological context, and has already been misused egregiously by people using it to justify inhumane social policies (social darwinism). Even in its narrow biological meaning, it’s not clear how big a role natural selection plays in evolution: a recent trend has been to emphasize cooperation, as well as to give more credence to the complex web of relationships between organisms in ecosystems. As a widely used and misused term, “natural selection” also seems to discourage closer examination of the actual relationships in question. Lastly, and most importantly, when applied outside of its strict biological meaning, natural selection suggests that everyone is engaged in competition for survival at all times, that the basic condition of living things and man in particular is that of “nature red in tooth and claw,” which isn’t true. As discussed elsewhere, competition attributed to man in his natural state is a more accurate description of civilized life, and Hobbes’ famous “nasty, brutish and short” line describes the lives of civilized humans much more accurately than those of our “primitive” forebears.

Competition seems to be a condition of civilized life. It applies on most levels short of that of the biggest corporations and nation states, and plays an even bigger role in the official ideology of capitalist societies. It’s been noted by astute observers that capitalists would subject everyone to cut-throat competition leading to a reduction in labor costs and standards of living, while reserving welfare-state treatment for their own class, and they’ve largely succeeded in shaping many nations in this way. Ultimately, I agree with TJK’s premise that technologically advanced civilization is on its way to a catastrophe, and that competition is a driving force behind this process.

What, then, of collapse? The other work most sorely missing from the bibliography of Anti-Tech Revolution is Joseph Tainter’s Collapse of Complex Societies (there are many works sorely missing from this book’s bibliography, works which would have saved TJK from duplicating effort, simple errors, and even writing entire chapters). Collapse of Complex Societies analyzes diminishing returns on social complexity in a few historical civilizations, and finds evidence that the laws of diminishing returns apply in equal measure to contemporary civilization. Collapse, the point at which no further investment can offset the drag caused by the added costs of social complexity, is inevitable as civilizations age and grow top heavy, according to this model. Tainter’s analysis doesn’t take environmental costs and resource depletion into account, so collapse is simply a reversion to a less complex state to shed the burden of costs imposed by added complexity. We won’t be so lucky.

Besides providing support for his thesis, Tainter’s work would have saved TJK from speculating about things like artificial intelligence and “Moore’s Law”, the idea that the performance of computer chips would double every year or two, growing exponentially. Certain dreamers have taken this, as well as the intoxicating pace of technological development of late in general, to mean that technology as a whole is always developing at an ever increasing rate. “Moore’s Law” itself was formulated to come to an end within decades, but it shouldn’t take a scientist to see that this idea is at odds with the law of diminishing returns. It may happen that something which excites the imaginations of hordes of people (and is lavishly funded) defies the overall trend in diminishing returns for a while, but it’s pure folly to think that this is somehow a self-perpetuating phenomenon.

TJK claims that the collapse of this civilization will wipe out all complex life forms on the planet: “…the extinction event that has now begun is of a fundamentally different kind than all of the previous mass extinctions that have occurred on this planet.” This may be a minor point, but I still wish that the exact nature of the collapse was discussed, and the reasons why TJK believes in the total destruction scenario fleshed out. As it is, no reasons are given other than cursory and hodge-podge mentions of some of the ills we face today.

In any case, since civilization is doomed, TJK believes a timely revolution is the only way to steer our course away from total disaster. Chapters 3 and 4 deal with the shape this revolution, and the movement leading up to it, must take, and the errors to avoid in pursuing this goal. They read like the thoughts of someone who’s never participated in a group project.

Manual for Revolutionary Leaders by Fredy and Lorraine Perlman (written under the pen name Michael Velli) is an extremely high-brow spoof of what it would take to pull off a revolutionary usurpation of power. Anti-Tech Revolution reads as if it could be a less-literate part of that spoof, except, of course, TJK is dead serious. I’ll try to keep this short, because I’m getting tired of talking about this book while all kinds of seemingly important things, like U.S. election drama, are happening, but here’s a quote:

A revolutionary movement can’t be successful if it allows its pursuit of its objective to be limited by reservations or qualifications of any kind, for these can only lead to fatal hesitation at critical times. (p.153)

Yes, it’s what it looks like it is: TJK is saying that moral qualms are fatal to a successful revolutionary group, the kind he is writing the manual for building. He also says that this group can’t be democratic in its decision making, must have the rank and file follow the leadership’s directives to a letter, must exclude well-wishers and fellow travelers to remain “pure,” and so on. In a word, he is describing an authoritarian-style group, a group along Stalinist or Maoist lines. Plenty of these have always existed, and those of us who have actually had the experience of working on common projects with members of such groups know that their members cultivate the attitude of humorless automatons, and that the eventual outcome of such endeavors is bloodshed and misery. In the words of Raoul Vaneigem, “those who speak of revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth.”

TJK justifies the bloodshed and the misery the revolution he is calling for will cause by evoking the image of a ravaged, uninhabited planet Earth, the result of our civilization’s hubris and greed if we don’t drastically change course soon. This is a relevant point. To me, it seems that any kind of revolution that is executed in the spirit of authoritarianism and inflexibility, and is undemocratic and immoral to boot, can only create a new order that is more of the same: hatred, oppression, and misery. It may be argued that this wouldn’t be the case with a successful anti-technological revolution, since once there is no technology more complicated than a knife, any tyrant will have to content him/her self with a fairly small domain. This may be so– I would certainly take my chances in such a world over this one, and once there, perhaps it won’t matter what road we took. But until technological society is overthrown, TJK is basically asking a lot of us to do really awful, immoral, inhumane things, perhaps for the rest of our lives, perhaps longer, in the name of this revolution. The sad thing is, I know there are plenty of people (with corpses in their mouths) who will gladly do those exact things, but I think that even for them, this project will have to be coated in much sweeter terms than are found here.

The thing that is most disappointing to me about Anti-Tech Revolution is the fact that TJK seems to have gotten human nature utterly wrong in so far as he pegs us as motivated by competition. This may be because the only ethnological or anthropological work he uses is Jared Diamond’s Collapse, an unfortunate choice on many levels. If people are so hopelessly competitive that they need to be protected from their own destructive instincts and delivered into a more humane utopia, pretty much against their natures (yet, ironically, by a revolutionary organization run by an undemocratic and immoral elite), why bother? If people are this nasty, they will make the garden of eden into a concentration camp. Let them rot.

I believe that people are not driven by competition. Rather, people adopt the qualities that they see their neighbors possessing, and their neighbors adopt the qualities that society says they should possess. Everyone simply wants to fit in, and does their best to do so. Paradoxically, if everyone practices anti-social behaviors such as excessive competitiveness, selfishness, or greed, our need to fit in will drive us to act in an anti-social way as well. But there it is. It can be unlearned. Many societies didn’t, and don’t, practice greed and competitiveness.

Materialism, greed, is the common factor underlying the pathology of our lives, our civilization’s reckless race to the bottom, to its’ doom. Seriously! I realize how uncool that is to say, since even the Christians view harping on greed as outdated and passe. But that’s really all it is. Societies choose what values they will adopt and to what extent, and a wide range exists among societies in the world today. Scandinavian countries have made a collective decision to support the weakest members of their society; the U.S.A., by contrast, has made a collective decision to blame the weakest members of society for their own problems, and to celebrate those with the most instead. In fact, so much of American society is geared solely to excuse and justify greed that people are literally bewildered by the contradictions and paradoxes this creates. To take something everyone knows is bad and to spin an entire ideology around it to transform it into something good can leave anyone not sure which way is up.

Getting rid of technology and sending society back to the stone age would certainly solve the problem of greed by getting rid of anything anyone might covet. I am not against this solution at all. But, I find it very hard to see anything good coming from pursuing this goal (in such a way) for my generation, who won’t yet be the beneficiaries of a greed-free world, but will have to spend our lives living out the worst things our present society has to offer, and then some. Yet, the future of our planet hangs in the balance.

Oct 13

Society ended and no one noticed

freedom from empathy.  and sense.

Through Siberia by Accident
Dervla Murphy
John Murray (Publishers), London 2005
ISBN 978-0-7195-6664-6

Humans are very good at following and processing sudden shifts in their environments, but very bad at being aware of gradual changes. No one noticed that life in America has little by little turned into “just holding on,” that the fun we have, when we have it, is too little too late, that we’re never completely convinced we should keep trying at any given moment rather than watch TV or drink ourselves into a stupefied calm. These changes happened slowly, over decades and generations. To complicate things, the better conditions some time ago weren’t all good for all people, and were downright awful for many: the deterioration in the quality of life over time has been a complex process. Most people have traditionally focused on improvements in material well-being to claim that life is better now than before and getting better all the time, a dubious claim itself considering how much misery there is out there today. Perhaps it isn’t all that much more, as a proportion of the total, than at the height of the abuses of the industrial revolution, but no one with any access to accurate information should claim that we today enjoy better lifestyles than cavemen or hunting/ gathering groups. (Not only did hunter/ gatherers enjoy a more varied and nutritious diet than almost anyone who came after them, their brains were bigger than ours, paralleling the decrease in brain size which happens to domesticated animals.)

We’re not merely less happy than we’ve been at perhaps any other time in our history, and we’re not just stupider, meaner, more selfish, less interesting and interested, less empathetic, less fun, and more confused. We in the west, certainly those of us in the U.S., are no longer members of human society as its always been understood and conceived of. Society has come to an end, and no one noticed. But, how would one notice the end of society? When society peters out, people go on living, its just that they no longer live as a social species, but as something else. What “else” may be for the pundits or the sci-fi writers to figure out. Whatever we ever meant by “society,” we in the West no longer practice anything of the sort.

The words “society,” “socialized,” and “social” are problematic for what I’m trying to bring to your attention, because most people understand them as referring to things people do together, without differentiating between, for example, sharing an elevator in a tall building and singing together with a group of people, and in the latter example, between singing with others in a high school music class, or around a campfire, or at a demonstration. Social, to most people, simply means things we do together, as opposed to individual. But a collection of individuals in a place and time (and sometimes neither, i.e. social media), can be simply a collection of separate beings, or it can be something more: an experience which leaves all involved transformed for the better. Consider a group of people gathered inside a mass transit bus, and a group of people gathered around a volleyball net. Both are social events, but one makes everyone involved feel like garbage and resent the people around them, whereas the other makes everyone involved feel invigorated and connected to everyone else. For what I’m trying to describe here, the two kinds of group activity have to be carefully differentiated: there is no separate word for the kind of “social” that I am concerned with here, the kind that strengthens bonds between the participants, but this is the one we need to pay attention to. I am proposing that “society,” “culture,” and such words, describe the transformative experience of people coming together in a place and a time for a common purpose, and not the results and the record of such comings together, which may be better termed “material culture” and its accoutrements.

I realize this definition leaves much to be desired, but I am hoping I can be understood anyway, and maybe helped in this project, for which I am surely woefully inadequately equipped. If I’d seen it tackled by anyone else, I would, I promise you, have the sense to bark up the right trees only. But, the ongoing end of human society seems to be well off everyone’s radar, even though everyone senses that something is very wrong. I attribute it, mostly, to a lack of a vantage point from which the whole trajectory of society can be observed.

I wouldn’t have become aware of this alarming development if I hadn’t had the experience of being born in the Soviet Union, and the privileged position being an immigrant affords to someone observing people and their ways. Obviously, the subject of differences between ethnic groups has remained a favorite from the day the first Neanderthal met the first Homo Sapiens, but I’ve recently begun to think that I may be observing something more profound than variations in ethnic color, namely, the struggle of some people to hold on to a socialized existence, and of others to deal with an existence lacking in socialization altogether.

Everyone knows that people in other parts of the world are profoundly different from Americans. When describing the difference we see in these others, we use words like, “hospitable,” “quaint,” “warm,” etc. We lack the words to describe these differences because we mostly lack the concepts for them. What we see as local color, that quaint hospitality some people in remote places across the world show us, is what people living in properly socialized environments are like. I think it’s funny that we see such people as dupes or quaint at best, and fail to see all the things which allow them to be generous, hospitable, and warm, things we lack: extended families to teach us when young, support and help us when we need it, and learn from us in turn when we’re old; a stable home rooted in a specific place to discover, love, and protect; a simple life free of the anxiety of media phantoms parading all the things we supposedly lack before us all day; a simple life dedicated to real pleasures and real goals, where you can actually be whatever you want to be, certain of the support of your loved ones, instead of having unattainable, sociopathic goals. These things comprise the social dimension of life. When we think of society, we usually think instead of the infrastructure our civilization has built to keep itself going, the different classes of people, the professions, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, etc. All those things are relevant, to be sure, but they aren’t what makes humans properly socialized, and in fact, often serve to distract us from the fact that we’re alone, miserable and confused.

Elsewhere, people still live lives socialized to various degrees. Though tearing at the seams and strained to the max almost everywhere, society is still a part of many people’s lives outside of the West. Russian people’s lives are in many cases still highly socialized. I was reminded of what Russians are like by Dervla Murphy’s Through Siberia by Accident, a great book by a great author. Murphy took her trip through Siberia in 2002, when the Russian people were finally far enough removed from the “market reforms,” which dispossessed them in the mid-1990s, to observe the effects western culture was having on their lives with some clarity.

Throughout Siberia, Murphy met plenty of people who viewed Russia as only getting better with increasing western influence, and plenty of others who saw western culture as intrinsically at odds with indigenous culture, and ultimately displacing it to everyone’s detriment. Opinions split, unsurprisingly, along economic lines: those who were making money hand over fist in the “New Russia” were inclined to see it as improved by westernization, while many of those approaching the changes with more caution came from the public sector–teachers, architects, and the like. According to Murphy, many Russians are worried about the dissolution of their society as the result of the free flow of western values. Murphy quotes a Siberian acquaintance: “For ten years we have democracy and all are free, no one telling children what to do and when, no one organizing anything for them. And what are they doing with their freedom? How can they be expected to organize themselves? The intelligentsia can use freedom but not the rest.” (p.57) Western values consider freedom unequivocally good, for anyone, in any circumstance. I know young American parents who wouldn’t think to thwart the freedom and development of their child in any way– before they can talk, they are allowed to pursue anything that catches their fancy in any way. That’s fine, but kids have no concept of freedom, and need, above all, a stable, loving environment, adult role-models, a good home in a good community. These aren’t things that the parents can provide their children on their own, but without them, kids will grow up improperly socialized to various degrees, and eventually, unhappy.

Russians are different from Americans in specific ways. Traits having to do with strengthening social bonds such as thoughtfulness, politeness, accommodation, are held up for praise in Russian society. Dervla Murphy, in her 60s when visiting Siberia, could always count on a seat when riding crowded mass transit: young men or women invariably stand up and offers their seat to an older person should there be nowhere to sit. These qualities are, by contrast, very rare in America, where instead traits focusing on the individual are held in esteem. It is a rare home I’ve visited in Milwaukee, WI– a quaint city by many standards– where the host offered their guests so much as a glass of water. This is, for many people the world over, treatment one wouldn’t give to one’s enemies. Yet, these aren’t bad people, they are just clueless that another way of living exists because they weren’t raised with any other way. They see their crappy, lonely lives as normal, and stoically blow their brains out, as well as, increasingly, the brains of others’ who may happen to be in the way, when their ludicrous dreams prove unattainable and no deus ex machina is at hand. These are two different breeds of men, but only one is capable of replicating human society– the other can only recreate the pyramid scheme which got them where they are.

What would a society that’s dissolved look and feel like to the people forced to inhabit its’ ruins? I think the most important benchmark of a functioning society is the empathy its members experience towards one another. Empathy is both a prerequisite and a consequence of human society. Ours is perhaps the first civilization in human history to have a serious enough problem with individuals lacking in empathy to create a word and a concept for it, “sociopath.” But the breakdown in empathy between members of a group is not always due to an individual pathology. Some people are unable to experience empathy, some don’t experience it because they haven’t been taught to experience it to the appropriate extent in childhood, and some might simply not want to, for any number of reasons. It seems to me that when the levels of empathy fall below a certain threshold, you may no longer be dealing with a society deserving of the name. Again, empathy is not so much a metaphysical way of getting inside other people’s heads, and more about the way people who live together, spend time together, share values, habits, dreams, and so on, just know what the other members of their group experience. Naturally, this faculty is diminished when you live a life largely removed from others, or in a belief that everyone is so “individual” the things we have in common don’t matter, or both.

But it is important to remember that a bunch of people will keep on going about their things, buying, selling, fighting, fucking, and the sort, long after any meaningful social component has been taken out of their way of life. Instead of the common good, they will serve laws written by people they chose to represent them far away. Mostly, they’ll have no clue why they value the things they value, because people they’ve never seen will dictate their tastes to them, common taste for conformists and rare tastes for the rebels. Civilization doesn’t end because everyone becomes a petty Napoleon, convinced that their expansion is limitless until checked by another in a never-ending war of all against all. It doesn’t even slow down. It just becomes unbearable for everyone involved.

Can it be fixed? I think there’s nothing simpler. Empathy isn’t a complicated, hard to understand quality– it’s simply the way people who share in a human society interact. All that needs to happen for empathy to be restored is for people to go back to living in a more mutually-dependent, mutually-assisted, way. Anyone incapable of seeing the world through the eyes of their fellow man will probably not be able to live closely with others. Empathy is simply that adaptation to close-quartered life, which carries the additional benefit of keeping us sane. That is to say, we can’t be fulfilled and probably not even retain our sanity without having the benefit of others’ empathy and being empathetic ourselves: our nature as human beings is to live with others of our own kind.

So, I hope I’ve been able to communicate something of what’s been occupying my mind for a long while. Society, obviously, didn’t end in so far as most people think of society as the machinery and ideology of our system of life, in all its glorious, inhuman complexity. But something did end– namely, that component of our lives which allows us to be happy, the social component. No one’s ever paid much attention to it because no one’s ever had any reason to imagine a life without it. No matter how bad things have previously gotten for men, slavery, Auschwitz, famine, we always had each other to make it through the bad times. For the first time, this is no longer the case. We’re finding that not only are we unable to get through the bad times alone, but we can’t make it through the good times, either– we can’t accomplish anything alone at all. Any task one might pursue requires an army of supporting characters, from the day you’re born to the present moment, and all the way back to the dawn of history if you want to be really thorough.

It’s fascinating that all these years, the conventional wisdom has insisted that if you’re unhappy, you’re not pursuing your dreams– the answer is, more freedom, more individualism. The conventional social roles we are forced to act out against our will are stifling us and making us miserable. Our goal is to “find ourselves” and tap into our individual-ness. Was it really the opposite the entire time? How could so many get things so wrong for so long? This isn’t the first time human nature has been completely misunderstood, and yet… Perhaps no one should be surprised that the idea that what’s making us all miserable is a lack of individual freedom has been as influential for as long as it has: it fits all too neatly into the longer-term project to destroy local human communities in order to advance the goals of international capitalism.