21st Century Life

Music: Is this the World we created – from Queen 1984, autoplays once, so pause if you don’t like it.


“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace” – Jimi Hendrixndrix

The pace of life, the stress of life.
Why did the world go and get itself into such a hurry? It’s all speed and greed these days. The pace of modern ‘life’ is frightening. Life is in quotes as I question if it can be called such in these early times of the 21st century. We humans need to urgently reflect on the essence of modern day life and the path humanity has taken in recent times.


The ever so critical work/life balance of many of us is highly dubious today. We are funnelled into an increasingly pressurised educational and work environment and this is considered the norm, even aspirational! Most of our life seems to revolve around arduous hours of work just to earn a decent wage. We seem to be driven by a need for material wealth which supposedly allows us attain a higher social position, a more desirable standard of living and better marriage gene pool prospects.


A higher standard of living is a worthy aim, as is financial security, but achieving it gets more difficult all the time. It’s like as if something is happening in the background, orchestrated by some entity, which keeps it just out of reach for most people, but we continue to strive for it nonetheless.


We are overworked and overwhelmed in an increasingly stressful environment with relentless schedules of ‘things’ to do. We juggle and multitask several things at once with little chance of ever completing them and every chance of attaining burn out.


The world is changing for the worse rather than for the better. The bygone and what seemed to be a more virtuous and carefree way of life has been changed and destroyed to make way for so-called progress and improvements. Not that all was wonderful in times past, and all is dreadful now, but where we are today and how we got here deserves a pressing second look.


We are living in dangerous times, life as we knew it will be unrecognisable in a generation or twos time. It has drastically changed already and at a blistering pace. Is this considered progress or societal advancement? While all generations may pine for the days of yore this time I fear it’s much different. This is not just a simple case of nostalgia. We have in the 21st century crossed a line, life altering changes are more pronounced – a foreboding thought and there is no going back now.


The ever increasing pressure of modern life can only end in disaster for humanity. And the damn struggle starts at an earlier and earlier age, not long after ones first days of school, and it is relentless from that point on. Even the carefree and precious days of childhood as we knew them have been snatched away and are now just a brief span of children’s lives – what a shame! Is there any sense of mystery of the world left in children anymore; is playful imagination now to be frowned on? There is too much pressure to grow up too fast and learn about everything at too early of an age, so they can begin to participate in the rat race in double-quick time. Almost as if the bottom line in some balance sheet is all that’s important. Sadly passion means very little in career pursuit anymore.


Meanwhile back in the adult world our work inboxes are ever-expanding. Our free time is ever-shrinking. And work stalks us day and night via our smart mobile devices. The travails and exertions of modern life result in emotional stress for many. Being busy is almost considered to be a badge of honour. We are not machines – but we live like we are! Driving machines harder necessitates more maintenance, yet we often neglect to do this for ourselves as we drive ourselves harder to increase our productivity, status and material wealth. Workplace related stress and anxiety is considered to be the health epidemic of the 21st century. Mental ill-health is now perhaps the greatest threat we humans have ever had to deal with. Radical thinking is urgently required to resolve this modern curse that we have brought upon ourselves.


Our minds are now cluttered, our minds are now confused. Our values have declined. These stressful times we live in have even eroded common decency, courtesy and respect towards each other. Our world has become a mess. As American mystic Thomas Merton said “The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds”. We need to slow down, improve our mental clarity and put our head above water and breathe deeply. What we need is soul food, nourishment for our souls, our minds, our spirits – in whatever natural form that can be attained. What we need are ideas that make sense at deeper levels and give a well grounded meaning to life. While the soul is not a medically recognised organ it still needs sustenance, feeding and direction rather than the suppression, crushing and destruction that envelops it today.


In 1980 John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. How true, we get so caught up in the pace of life that we don’t even have time to enjoy it or appreciate what it’s all about. And it passes us by so quickly. We have become extremely busy fools.


What or who is driving this agenda?
We are been herded into this never ending cycle of improving how productive we are and increasing profit margins. Who is doing the pushing and moulding of our lives? What exactly is the agenda and what model is it based on? Productivity, efficiency, output seem to be the codes to live by these days. And we do this just to maintain or improve our earnings and do the same thing year after year after year, ad infinitum! And all for what? A sober analysis of the situation would suggest it is just to increase profitability of big business, corporate business, as the cost of living for the individual spirals out of control.


We are witnessing an ideology going out of control as a new strain of capitalism is been unleashed on the world. Society today seems to revolve around profit. Our world has become a land where vulture capitalists swoop on their defenceless prey. The corporate raiding world of Gordon Gekko is not so fictional after-all. The world is now their oyster. We now live in an out of control ‘get-rich at any cost’ culture.


Decency in the corporate world has been strangled as menacing vulture capitalist run amuck around the world seeking bargains and deals and feeding on weakened, vulnerable and troubled ordinary humans and their livelihoods. The walked-over destitute are cast back to Dickensian times while the shameful few feast at the table. This behaviour is not a product of capitalism, rather a product of humans – this new breed of capitalism just makes this practice easier to bring into play.


Ethics in big business appears to be a thing of the past as core values get expelled from board rooms. Lip service to ethics is the most we can expect. A corrosive cynicism overshadows corporate business. It may even be too late to re-introduce ethics into corporate culture as the very foundations of modern life are now threatened. It seems ethics, individual responsibility and accountability would most likely slow down this heartless profit driven system – that wouldn’t do! Are the short-term and long-term consequences of this profit driven route planned or are they just unforeseen by the belligerent few. Let’s not forget the words of Greek philosopher Aristotle; “At his best, man is the noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst”. And law and justice seem to be tapering off these days.


Take that awesome invention, the internet, that once enthused us all. That incredible resource of information has now been hijacked; almost all web pages are awash with adverts, as are YouTube and other video channels. Even on traditional TVs every channel has an increasing level of adverts, making films and programmes on most channels simply unwatchable without increasing your frustration level and probably having hidden adverse affect on your mental and physical welfare. And newspapers and magazines of all sorts have increasingly more adverts. Profit driven marketeers are continuously testing the boundaries with advertising, what they can just about get away with, but bit by bit they encroach further into people’s lives, people’s well-being. This constant bombardment of information that we don’t want or need or request is just too much. Enough is enough. And yet worse it’s getting. We are being manipulated into living in a consumer driven and ownership centric society with little recognition of it’s impact or understanding that this is unsustainable for society and for the environment at large.


It has even contaminated sport, a once noble and pure type of entertainment. While winning is everything to an athlete, danger lurks behind them in the form of owners and sponsors for whom profit is everything. And the temptation to increase profit whether by illegal drug use (think Tour de France and World Athletics situations to name just two arenas), or through use of brutal capitalism by flashing the big bucks (think English football clubs and European rugby clubs) to buy the best and stamp out rivals, thereby destroying the very essence of sport. Surely it’s not an exaggeration to say this may spell the decline if not the demise of sport.


Don’t get me wrong. Small scale capitalism is a good thing, a great thing even, a driver of innovation, a creator of jobs. Capitalism works, I’m all for it. It’s essential for the well-being of a civilization. But large scale unchecked and unregulated capitalism and global monopolies accompanied by their influence on social, political and economic policy – well that’s a dangerous force and a new reality we have thrust upon ourselves – a nightmarish type of capitalism if you will. And it is the amorality and practices of some people within this capitalist system that needs to be addressed.


The hijacking of the mind by big business.
It started with the hijacking of the internet and the media by big business. Now control of our minds is what they want. Where will it stop? Will our mobile devices be similarly hijacked? Will a ten second advert now play before we can answer a phone call? Will SMS messages be interspersed with adverts and banners? Google glasses will be just another conduit for marketeers and corporations to subject us to advertising, subliminal at that, with the glasses recording what you are actually looking at. Big business is getting one step closer to reaching inside your mind and recording your thoughts as you go about your daily life. Technology is meant to enhance our lives and grease the wheels of commerce, but something sinister lurks behind technology or rather its misuse.


Imagine if the head of Google or other search engines (or Twitter, Facebook or other popular social media) has a particular political persuasion. It would be easy for them to swing let’s say a government election, or paint a particular view of world events, as they control the flow of information, and access to information, even control history. Surely that’s far too much control for the good of humanity. They can subtly or blatantly influence our opinions, thoughts, morals even. Is it just me or is that a scary proposition? This is the Dystopian beginning that will bring about society’s collapse. Wake up! There are powerful warnings all around us.


A bogus or fanciful need for instant useless information seems to have appeared out of nowhere, with this continuous fascination with Twitter, Facebook, and social media in general. News as it happens, mostly useless news, has become the ultimate distraction. As if to function one needs everybody’s opinion on everything that ever happens. And all at the expense of real communication or even ‘me time’, time alone or time being non-busy in order to refresh the mind, body and spirit. Social media and all its trimmings is a new addictive and highly dangerous social drug seeping into our everyday lives, forewarning of a new age.


Is should instill fear in all of us as you knowingly or unknowingly expose your life and compromise your privacy, especially on glossy social media sites. But throughout the internet people profiling by digital marketing has reached new heights or rather plunged to new lows, monitoring every click and every keystroke and watching our travels from webpage to webpage. Worry about who possesses your data, your thoughts, your history and your future plans as new covert digital tracking technologies are continuously developed, and worry even more about how this data is used, manipulated and sold. Be wary of the rise and danger of the misuse of the new science of data analytics, for more profitable marketing, to enable more revenue opportunities for big business. In short, more effective targeting of you to take yet more of your money. The ultimate purpose is, well it’s inevitable it will be used to generate more wealth for global corporations – this must be stopped at all costs!


And furthermore this growing interdependence of big business and global corporations (and sovereign states) means both have an increasing duty to society at large, since their values and behaviour matter more than ever before. There should be a limit on how big corporations can get and how wealthy they can become for the greater good of civilization. They should be forced to split upon reaching a certain level. This ‘too big to fail’ theory is a recipe for disaster, since these companies are so large and interconnected failure will have catastrophic global consequences. As American economist Alan Greenspan has said “If they’re too big to fail, they’re too big”.


What the future holds for humanity.
Have we any reason to be dreamily optimistic about humanity? I think not. Human integrity and disposition is now called into question, especially in the corporate world. Left unchecked and to our own devices, with no decent oversight, we are fundamentally selfish, even barbaric or brutish. Selfless we are not, altruism is for a minority of humans and seems to be a dying word. Indeed the 21st century may see the removal of that obscene noun ‘altruism’ from the human lexicon. There are too many Mr. Potters and too few Mr. Baileys in the world, so maybe it’s time the 1946 film ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ was compulsory viewing for all, it might help enlighten the misguided.


What sort of world have we created; what sort of world have we become; what sort of world are we leaving to the next generations? Looking around it seems a world on the edge of ruin with endless wars, terrorism, mass pollution, and man-made climate change – all a direct consequence of greed. Humans have reached the stage where we should be classified as passive killers, mainly due to our lack of ability and motivation to solve the world problems. Our collective inaction is disturbing. We have far too many human weaknesses and seemingly no will to overcome them. Our priorities need urgent adjusting. Why is it that billion dollar profit is so much a priority in our genes?


I fear the damage is already done and irreversible, ideals and values (or lack of) are too entrenched. The world is littered with dogmatism at it’s ugliest. Remember the civil rights movements in 1960s America; The Vulture and the little girl, Sudan, 1993; Holy cross, Belfast, 2001; The little boy on the Turkish beach, 2015; To say these and countless other images touches the heartstrings is a massive understatement. Does anything ever change with the fools called humans on this planet? We should delete the word ‘humanity’ from our lexicon. An apt Mark Twain quote springs to mind – “I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the “lower animals” (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me.”


The last hope we had as a species to save ourselves looked ominous when we went back to killing each other the day after the Flanders football game, Christmas 1914. One could be forgiven for thinking we have somehow created an utterly heinous society heading to oblivion with a vengeance. If there are Gods in the heavens I wonder do they meet to discuss the sorry state of humanity – I don’t think we are what they had in mind. Man’s inhumanity to fellow man seems to know no bounds and is flourishing. Homo Sapiens – the irony of the name, we should be renamed Homo Destructus.


At the very top of the food chain in today’s world too few people have too much wealth; ergo, too much power at their disposal – this will not end well.

Yours …..
Garvan Dwane Mar’16
(from a dispirited and disgruntled human)