“A man’s worth is no greater than his ambitions.” ~ Marcus Aurelius
Ambition, aspiration, growth, expansion, The ‘Market’, competition, choice, profit… These terms, once of generally positive prosody, are now so politically distorted that they are almost like dirty words; their modern economic and political applications have wrought havoc, causing stress, distress, anxiety, paranoia and dis-ease on personal, national and global levels. We have created a fear-based, bread and circus economy. How have humans become so hungry for the superfluous and superficial? Addicts, filling holes to avoid facing that which caused the holes to form. How did we reach such a state of denial and hubris that desolation and hedonism are as the twin pillars of Society?
It’s not wrong to want new things and better things, from essentials to luxuries to frivolities but we seem to have become enslaved by material desires and acquiring status. We’ve built a whole global economy that depends on us having a perpetually voracious appetite that requires the exploitation of all our precious environment’s finite resources, including its people. And, as we know, this is a system that maintains a wealthy and powerful few people at the expense of everyone else. Scrambling to compete and calling it ‘choice’.
Some see this as Capitalism’s reflection of natural ordering and call it ‘survival of the fittest’ which is fine in the context of, say, brands in a market that is ‘free’. And, sure, we all have to learn to adapt to changing circumstances and some do that more readily than others but, for goodness’ sake! This is the 21st Century! What on earth happened to the evolution of our consciousness? We can also engineer changes that are adapted to and for us. It’s an interchangeable thing. We can build an economy that works for us. There’s no need to deliberately feudalise life. Why can’t we grasp that? If we’ve learned feudalism’s lesson then perpetuating it is insane; a wholly inappropriate and unhealthy friction. Darwin was making observations, not advocating that consciously intelligent humans try to design their socio-economic world around his theory. That’s a pretty vacuous ambition for our species and, if we keep going like this, our present systems and attitudes will kill us all off, no matter how fit or adaptable one may be. Anyway, what’s the point of being among a mere few survivors on an inhospitable planet? Only short-term, me-first fools can have the level of dishonourable selfishness it demands and who wants to be in their company..?
There has to be a better way to financially sustain ourselves. It might be through less profit, reducing the cost of living, a basic income, embracing appropriate automation and a shorter working week but doing whatever jobs need doing. It might be by accepting the cost of living, a hefty increase in wages, collective bargaining and a firm but fair tax system. It might be by slowing down the pace of things and each individual being paid to do whatever the heck they best do. Whatever, there’s a wealth of alternative views ‘out there’. It’s up to us to create some common ideals and apply them with practical wisdom.
Don’t you want time to just breathe? Time and space to just be..? To be available to yourself with your personal growth as your profit? Your sense of competition being you, challenging yourself first? An appropriate friction. The unrushed time with friends and family. Not just the compressed ‘quality’ sort of time but more the kind that means being emotionally, mentally and physically available to those you love and who need you? Are you in there? That spirit who aspires to inner growth, strong relationships and creative expression? If that sounds like utopian romanticism to some, then that is a measure of how far removed we are from what actually matters.
Stick a pin in a Map of Earth. Anywhere on the map where there are people. From the U.S. to the Middle East; from South America to Russia; from Europe to Africa, to China: everywhere a journalist speaks to the people – the actual people, not the government, ‘think’ tanks, media or topical ‘experts’ – and what do the people generally say they want? What values, hopes and dreams do they mostly express? They say pretty much the same things, don’t they? They want stuff like peace of mind, Democracy, sound Law, freedom, autonomy, rights, equality, fresh clean water, nutritious real food, security/stability, sustainability, education, healthcare, community, privacy, a decent standard of living… And that’s not because these concepts and actualities are what Life is all about. It’s because, set those things right and people really can live.
“I should have been smart enough to stay happy. But my ambition ruled my life.” ~ Eva Gabor