The modern age is full of its share of catastrophes -- environmental, social, racial, economic, etc. But perhaps the most pervasive crisis looming on the horizon is the vast imbalance in the ratio of jobs to able workers. Technology must invariably streamline the workforce -- it's the dream of centuries to have machines do the work. Well, now that we're arriving at the reality of automation and AI being on the threshold of taking over the workplace, we have no plan. None of our leaders is even talking about it. It's the single most important economic period in the history of the planet, and it's a whisper at best. We're going to be forced to find a way to organize society around some locus other than employment, because when a robot can do it better, around the clock, and for no money -- that human position is gone forever. This is the single biggest economic issue facing us over the next thirty years.
I say this to the romantics, the rebels, and the idealists: Most people don't have the luxury of not having to work. You fight it when you're young, and if you have not been the beneficiary of some financial bequest, you get beaten down enough that you have to give up and give in. The system wins. It certainly wasn't built in a day.
In an economy based upon things, things take on a highly overvalued and unnatural character.
There don't seem to be enough jobs for applicants at any level of the economy, and everyone who has a job wants a better one.
For those in positions of political and economic power, the object is to retain the status quo as much as possible. I doubt very much if very many humans are capable of pulling off a sinister conspiracy in a precise way, but common interests are in play that keep things running smoothly in that vein, anyway -- meaning that people are given an incentive to continue to go after the carrot at the end of the stick. When punishments begin to far outweigh rewards is when these groups with common interests and appreciable influence run into trouble, as their game begins to lose its requisite players. And then, all bets are off. In some cases this imbalance leads to a lot of trouble, including severe violence. Some civilizations have toppled because of it. So the powerful have a decided interest in keeping things very much as they are for as long as possible.
One doesn't have to be good at making money to be a good person, or to be intelligent, or to be talented or even gifted. The meme that individual worth as a human being and as pertains to one's bank account balance are equivalent is particularly American, and totally insane. It's disturbing that we can be so lost as a society. Money shouldn't define who we are, but it so often does.
In America (and I assume by now most countries on Earth), in 2016 there are not many opportunities to do a whole lot. This is regardless of personal worth, strength of character or, most importantly, ability and potential skill. There are very many millions of able-bodied, competent people who are unemployed or underemployed. The crisis is here, now, although it appears that very few who are in the know and can reach a wide audience seem willing or inclined to bring it up.
On the one hand, you want to say that the best makes it to the top. On the other, when I look at what's at the top, a lot of it, let's be honest, isn't the best.
The notion of being "rich and famous" is a pipe dream that sees fulfillment in virtually no one. It clearly does not bring happiness, anyway, and in fact frequently brings misery.
The sad fact is that Native Americans and Africans, among others I suppose, are simply ill-equipped, for whatever reason, to deal with the dominating white man's culture -- through absolutely no fault of their own. It's utterly tragic what has happened to them.
Every able-bodied worker could be trained directly by employers, so that they can learn exactly how to perform a given set of job functions. Instead we have a kabuki dance in which one has to accrue a slew of artificial, arbitrary criteria merely to get an interview. The reason for this kabuki dance is to regulate the applicant pool of the job market -- without these ridiculous motions there would be a total glut on the labor market. "Education" at our precious institutions is meaningless and worthless, in itself. It's just a stupid game.
I never picked a career -- and I do not regret it at all.
On this particular planet, if you don't have enough green tickets, you don't get to eat. Tough luck!
If one is 'forward-thinking' and realistic, one cannot reject the phrase: "Fuck work."
Does good necessarily get popular? Is popular necessarily good? Is capitalism a farce?
Property protection is nine-tenths of the law. And naturally, those with the most property benefit from this the most. Our society is systemically and inherently unfair. Oh well.
People go on and on about "change." Change is virtually never intentional, and when it is intentional, the result turns out to be a domino effect of uncontrollable, blind forces which themselves were never intended. I'm not so sure what "changing the world" even means.
Those who find themselves in the world but not of the world see a (now global) system operating which they do not identify with and is outside of them, although they must unfortunately interact with it on some level in order to survive. And the knowledge and perspective those relative outsiders have is totally unknown to the majority of those making up that system. Which is to say their uncommon way of life, and their unique way of seeing and interacting with the world.
Indeed, everything must be more or less as it is in the world, given certain unalterable facts. But just because we need a system somewhat like ours to survive and make livings does not mean our cultural constitution has to be so bereft of anything resembling real value, integrity, and, dare I say, depth of soul. And perhaps, if it were not, many of our most dire problems would simply disappear.
There is no place for me to be in society, and I take some measure of pride in that.
Thing is, I'm not scoring any points in their game because I'm not playing their game. (At the outset I refused to qualify, and I do not regret the decision at all).
The sad fact is that in modern America, the number of job applicants outstrips the number of jobs by a very wide margin. There are simply too many people and not enough jobs. And so, literally millions of able-bodied, intelligent workers of my generation are never given a shot economically, whereas thirty years ago someone just like them would have been afforded one. If America isn't failing, it's because it has already failed.
In our system of economics -- that is to say, that of civilization going back to Rome and even before -- there has to be a massive maldistribution of wealth. It is structural and the system could not possibly work without it. Civilization is very top-down. It is run by the managers for the managers. As a few get really wealthy, their ability to generate more wealth increases geometrically with time. This means that whatever revenue gets generated by the middle and lower classes usually winds up mostly in the coffers of the rich. They historically exacted this wealth in tribute, taxes and cheap or slave labor, and today simply take most of it because they own the property on which the work gets done, and they own most of the property (and they still pay relatively low wages and salaries, largely). This system always results in a fundamental imbalance, even after relative balance is achieved, because of the simple mathematical principle discussed above: the exponent. Whenever the slightest inequality develops, the differential ability to generate more wealth and eventually to buy out your competitor makes our kind of civilization systemically unfair and truly horrendous. We have done some great things as a civilization, but the suffering of the many amidst the well-being of the few has been the rule of the day.
You've got to hand it to the homeless -- they're beating the system by not participating.
Regrettably, I was not born with that gift which enables one to make a lot of money. One might save me the trouble and dump me in the landfill.
There is really no choice for most anyone but to participate.
For modern, civilized, "globalized" souls, there is no alternative way of life. There is no 'something else,' save homelessness. There is nothing at all to drop out to.
The upper class could not function, and would not have anything, without the lower classes. They certainly don't seem to accord them the appropriate respect or compensation.
How do you stand out in a crowd of eight billion? Of three hundred million? Mostly, you don't.
Society, for me, is like a one-size-fits-all garment that doesn't fit at all.
Utopian dreams. The belief in progress. Here we are, sixteen years into the new millennium, the century of hope -- and everything is seemingly as bad as it has ever been, for the majority. With the worship of money as robust as ever, very little has changed in any significant way. I'm afraid that bright future will just have to be pushed back for the time being.
In order to bring everyone in the world at this point (the population is still climbing rapidly) up to the standard of living of the United States of America, 4.1 Earths would be needed to sustain the consumption. It is clear that our problems go much deeper than simply bringing everyone to a high standard of living. Our real problems are much more fundamental than that.
There is a certain lack of options with a global population of so many billions.
Success is just another myth. Rarely does anyone find lasting fulfillment in it.
Whatever the events of one's life otherwise, work usually finds its way in (unless the circumstances are rather exceptional). The system can never be far from one's flights of adventure or fancy.
Money may not bring true happiness, but it is constructive to remember that it does bring real comfort.
Without all of the average people, the world wouldn't run. I agree with those who contend that maybe only one in a million souls is really worth something, but without all of the regular folks the special ones would have nothing.
One of the most insidious memes of Western culture is the belief that success necessarily and automatically brings happiness. When you are successful, you may be very pleased with yourself and be generally happy for awhile. But, like anything else, this feeling doesn't last. You have to keep going back to reinvent your success. And for most regular people who at least went through an intial phase of success, this doesn't happen. One gets stuck, one gets trapped doing the same things over and over, usually, and is never given a chance to reinvent anything. What was novel and exciting is now drudgery, and you can't help but wish for better, or at least different, work. Moreover, much of the time what can be classified as success never brings happiness in the first place. And of course you have the throngs of those who never achieved "success" in any large measure at all. In the end, the luster even of money, prestige, and power fades away. And these are the measures of success in our culture. They are wholly artificial.
Our system is a fucking sick joke. We perform tasks in order to earn little green tickets we can redeem for the things we need to live. We're rats in a lab going after pellets.
People talk about changing the world, making it a better place. The entire system and its superstructure is such a piece of shit -- and so universally -- that to say one can really transform it would be to say that one can take down Mount Everest with a pick-axe.
We still, even in our cherished "modern" or "postmodern" times, live in a feudal fucking society based on serfdom, vassals, lords, and fiefs. There is a vested interest in those souls at the top of the pyramid -- those who have managed to hoard most of the money and maintain control of the power base -- to keep things fundamentally exactly as they are. That is, to do everything within their means to keep their position and their property, and keep all but their brethren elite from ever gaining access to it. It can be seen as a system of punishment and reward. The lower classes take most of the punishment, but since they have the least money no one listens to them; the theoretically large middle class will be fine so long as the rewards are sufficient to outweigh the punishments; and to be a member of the upper class is to enjoy virtual impunity. Howsoever, the plutocrats are not invincible. In civilizations in which the punishments begin to outweigh the rewards, trouble brews. In civilizations in which the people become cognizant that they are being exploited, things can, and usually do, change. I think we are now, in the United States of America, entering such a phase. Every civilization sows the seeds of its own destruction. By setting up a system where you have a lower and middle class making money for the upper class, of which a virtual pittance is given as compensation, one has only to wait until the balance shifts so egregiously that the punishments outweigh the rewards and everything falls apart. This is one of the principal reasons why civilizations die. People no longer feel they are justly compensated, or they are hip to the scam, or the punishments -- lower working conditions, less pay, more work for less, fewer concessions (such as health care or affordable housing) -- outweigh the rewards -- robust pay for reasonable work hours, adequate care and good all around living conditions. In the West we are beginning to see this, and as the economy worsens the basic foundations of the system become exposed: a few living in utter luxury and freedom from any hindrance -- and everyone else.
There are precious few opportunities for young people in our day and age. I suppose success depends mainly on whom one knows.
Even if all the wealth of the world were evenly distributed, it wouldn't solve all our problems. And, incidentally, it would be impossible for everyone in the world to be living simultaneously at a high standard of living.
Alternatives to this way of life are in fact possible. It's just that no one thinks in terms of the fact that there may be more than one way to live. There is no one right way to live, but at this point, almost everyone feels the globalized civilization game is the only one there can be, should be, and ever will be. Once again, alternatives are possible, but, unfortunately, nobody thinks this way and most people would never entertain anything even remotely resembling the notions that I have presented here. Our job, of course, is to do civilization well, at least, because radical change simply isn't probable. But if more people were exposed to the idea that there is no one right way to live, that alternatives are possible and even attainable given the right circumstances, maybe some individuals would dream up new ones -- or at least think differently, for a start.
The civilization game is rigged: money flows vertically, not horizontally.
You've got to dance to their tune and jump through their hoops to have a chance of landing in the corral you've picked out.
All I can say is, in my day-to-day life all I see is malfunction everywhere. I think our system works pitifully poorly at taking care of people, and the only ones who are really free to do what they wish with impunity are the upper .1%, for whom the system has become uncannily tailored. I think things are working badly on so many levels I don't even know where to begin.
The "freedom" people have is to work or be supported by someone who does.
No one is in control of the economy. The super-wealthy elite has more leverage and influence than everyone else, but even they don't control it. Look at the crash of 2008. That didn't help anyone, even though the banks got bailed out. Another economic cataclysm seems inevitable, as no one is going to be able to stop it. Those most able to stop it are precisely the ones pouring gasoline on the fire -- financial manipulators, investment bankers. But even they can't control what the hidden consequences of their actions will be. I believe the phrase is "pissing in the wind."
The death of the middle class is a big deal. Not only does it create a huge imbalance in wealth and quality of life between the higher and lower tiers of society; it also destroys the ability of the mass of people to purchase the goods and services that will keep the economy flowing. The producers cannot sell to a consumer-base that is poor and in debt. So, one way or another, over time the imbalance will be ironed out -- either through a solution or a crisis. There comes a point at which the game simply can't be played anymore.
I'd be willing to bet that we could generate the same, or an even higher, GDP in the U.S. with many fewer workers. At this point, we're making work -- given the technology available.
We are free? To do... what? Spend money?
It is quite a luxury to have work that one truly likes.
The argument still goes: If you want a better job, you need to get a graduate degree. Well, in Japan that's how it went for a long time, but they don't say that anymore. They've reached the point where there are just too few jobs for everybody. And that's coming very soon to America.
In this system, the people have no real choice at all. George Carlin correctly pointed out that there is a carefully crafted illusion of choice, but there is no genuine choice in much of anything available to anyone.
One's worth should not be defined by one's level of success, which is culturally decided and artificial. A person's character and intellect generally do not determine, and are not determined by, how much money or prestige he has garnered. No discussion of vocational achievement can truly circumscribe the totality of an individual -- or even come close to doing so, one may argue.
We are told in high school and college that 'you can make a big difference in the world.' You can't. Most people, expending all of their time and energy, can barely run their own lives. Change happens, but it's not something any one person or even any group of people has any control over. Personally, I don't have the time to volunteer or the capacity to derive a formula for saving the world. And I've got all I can handle using the vast majority of my time just to scrape by. It's the same for virtually everyone.
You don't have to be smart to make money, and you don't have to make money to be smart.
Property is theft, and commerce piracy.
Business. Busy-ness. An artificial economy that can topple easily. Things we do not really need and which do not really make us happy.
In the spirit of Daniel Quinn, let's unlock the food and see what happens. The basis of the scam of modern civilization is that the food is under lock-and-key. What happens when people are allowed to eat for free?
In a system of this nature that actually works properly -- nevermind utopia -- people should get paid what they need, not more or less, for work that needs to be done. People should not control staggeringly large amounts of money, nor be destitute or even in want of any kind. People should not be working at jobs which are superfluous and artificial. If there are more people than jobs, let there be a government program regulating a fixed period of mandatory employment for everyone. Everyone would work their designated amount of time, then be free to do whatever they want and collect dividends on shares of the national economy. The problem with this ever happening is that it would require a very powerful government, a government almost as pervasive as those in military states or some communist countries -- and probably equally as corrupt and tyrannical.
Everything I see of the workplace and the world indicates the healthy presence, and thus faked death, of feudalism. How can anyone with any appreciation of the truth believe that we ever meaningfully escaped the basic configurations and constraints of medieval times? The new lords are rich capitalists, which pretty much amounts to the same thing since they have all of the money, and we are as subservient to them as any serf or vassal ever was to his landlord and master. Property law hasn't really changed that much in all this time....
The Sixties were full of little pockets of proto-utopia. And since utopia is not sustainable, neither was the revolution.
Here I am, 35 years old, with nothing to my name and not a single choice to make in the world except to take a lousy, pointless job I don't want. America failed some time ago.
For every extant writing position in this country, there are about 10,000 writers. It's not a forgiving field.