Home > Philosophy sans Sophistry > Dystopia: 01

Dystopia: 01

Brutality, misery, poverty and deprivation have been common throughout human history. However truly dystopian societies have been rather rare, and indeed may have never existed till the last century. Dystopian societies are only possible once basic human needs are met.

I believe that we have been living in a dystopian society for some time. Let me explain..

We do not lack the basic necessities of life, which are now more inexpensive (and plentiful) than at any previous time in human history. But we now have other, largely self-made, problems that have rarely existed before.

1. No sense of belonging: We live in a system where people move their residences many times over their lives. Though some people can handle it better than others, the question remains: what does it achieve, other than constant dislocation? While it is fun to travel and live in different cities, and try them, should you not be able to live in a place you like and do something you like? Is that not what most humans really want?

We chide the third reich and communist countries for forcibly relocating people, when we do the same through transient jobs. I personally do not see the difference between relocating people through force or penury. Play Half Life 2, and you will get my drift.

2. Lack of stable relationships or personal friendships: One of the reasons that I spend so much time on the web, is the lack of strong personal relationships in my life. I bet that many of you are no different. The real question is, why? While the lack of a sense of belonging is one reason, there are many other reasons.

We live in an adversarial society, where people will screw you over for reasons that defy imagination. Let me enumerate: You could be screwed over by some acquaintance for inconsequential rewards. You could do everything right, but someone you love might decide that she wants to pursue a new career. People whom you trusted might betray you for very small rewards. The irony is: These rewards are so small compared to what they already have, that their actions defy rational explanation. It is much easier to understand a poor person trying to get ahead or stay alive, but what about people who already have a decent lifestyle. The result is that people cannot trust each other enough to truly connect.

The internet has been a mixed bag in this respect. It has hastened the process of devaluing personal relationships, but it has also opened new doors to communicate with others who you would otherwise never connect with.

3. Lack of Faith in Institutions: People born after 1970 are universally cynical, but why is it so? Maybe it is because they saw every institution that their parents believed in fail. From lifetime jobs, to average marriages, to religion, secular religions.. they have all failed us! There is nothing to believe in or trust based on authority. Even secular religions from environmentalism, financialism, credentialism to popular concepts such as meritocracy, positive thinking, optimism have failed us in ways we could not have even expected. This process is ongoing.. and will end in a world where we nobody believes anything that comes out the mouth of an “expert”.

4. Fragmentation: There are not many events, situations or situations that repeatedly bring us together in person. There are no strongly defined concepts or ideals that unite us. We get our news and views from diverse sources. There is no shared sense of community.

I see this as both bad and good, as it opens possibilities for ‘outliers’ like me to be what I want to be, rather than submit to a mainstream. Therefore my opinion about this one is mixed.

5. Lack of a Defined Life Cycle: We no longer get married in our 20s, pump out 3 kids by 30 and work ourself to death in boring jobs. A 41 year old is as likely to use the latest technology as a 31 year old or an 18 year old. I see this as marginally positive, because while it disrupts our conventional models of what people should do (life stages), it also opens opportunities that most of us never would otherwise have had.

With cheap medicines, even a 70 year old can bone an 18 year old (berlusconi). We age much better than previous generations, and though we are getting fatter- we are also less likely to get heart disease in the first place. I will tackle the effects of technology on aging in another series of posts. It certainly helps that most jobs are not physically demanding than before.

I am calling these changes as dystopic not because they are universally negative. Indeed, many of them are full of great promise and potential. The real issue is that we must adapt our culture and thinking patterns so that these opportunities make people happier, not more miserable and mean.

  1. Lee
    January 23, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    “It certainly helps that most jobs are not physically demanding than before.”

    My old man has worked hard as a butcher for his whole adult life. He’s 53 and he can outwork me or any other 25 yr old I know. He still has a sixpack. No bullshit.
    I doubt any 53 yr old tech guy can say that.

    • December 27, 2017 at 8:41 am

      I’m a U.S. 61-year-old who worked as a self-employed roofer/builder until job-incurred joint injuries forced me to retire. I’ve also been (and continue to do, despite limitations due to those injuries) no-steroids bodybuilding since I was age 16. Consequently, for forty-five years, I’ve had opportunity to observe the physical work capacities of guys both in both physically-demanding jobs and in gyms.

      My conclusion about the capacity to sustain physically-demanding work for long term of years and decades reduces to one word: genetics.

      A few, such as your dad, are born with superior physical genetics, which enable them to do and to sustain demanding physical work until their middle age and even older. However, the majority are born with average or even sub-average physical capacities for enduring physical labor; most , but not all, of these can do some hard work, for some shorter periods of time, but eventually are worn down by it and ultimately unable to do, if not chronically damaged by it, by your dad’s age. (No excuse for not exercising within one’s capacity throughout one’s lifetime — as I said, I’m age 61 and still bodybuild despite joint debilities — but the reason the majority by age 55 can’t do a job as physically demanding as your dad still can.)

      So, while a case can certainly be made for under-50 guys today needing to exercise for their own health and fitness sakes, it probably helps the majority of them that most jobs today are not physically demanding as jobs were through most of human history.

  2. January 25, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I am calling these changes as dystopic not because they are universally negative.

    I’m glad you threw in that last bit, because as I was reading this all I could think was, “This doesn’t sound so bad.”

  3. Russel
    January 26, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    Are you familiar with Robert Putnam’s work on diversity?

    His claim, supported by extensive research, is that ethnic and cultural diversity creates or exacerbates conditions 1 through 4 you list above.

    I assume from some of your writing you are non-white but does that mean you are going to avoid tackling the perspectives of the HBD world regarding race, crime, intelligence, and diversity’s impact on the well-being of a society?

    It seems that HBD is the real Devil’s Advocate position these days: if you say diversity is bad or that race correlates with intelligence you risk being attacked verbally or physically and losing your job. This is regardless of how much evidence you have on your side, how reasonable your presentation, or your intentions.

    It’s fairly obvious, as you have written elsewhere, that changing anything HBDers write about is next to impossible. Regardless the larger question is are they right? I would be interested in your thoughts.
    The problem with diversity lies in its implementation, not the concept per se. Very few people would argue that a competent person of any race deserves less than an equal of another race. The real issue is: how do we define competence?

    Example- Do entrance exam results tell you anything other than his/her ability to ace that test? Acing a test is a learnt skill, heavily dependent on access to resources and repeated practice.

  4. Russel
    January 27, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    Hm. “Very few people would argue that a competent person of any race deserves less than an equal of another race.”

    But isn’t that the very basis for affirmative action? An argument that competence is less relevant and that preference based on race is necessary? Many people and US policies explicitly do argue that.

    “Example- Do entrance exam results tell you anything other than his/her ability to ace that test?”

    But proponents of affirmative action used to strongly support testing to avoid hiring based on assumed social or same-race sympathies. At least, until testing continually supported some races and not others!

    Ironically, despite claims of a racial bias in favor of Whites both Jews and Asians have done better than Whites on tests related to IQ, entrance exams, and the like. So much for simple racism as an explanation.

    I don’t see how the problem with diversity lies in its implementation IF Robert Putnam’s research is correct. He shows it is diversity itself that is the problem, that is, it creates negative social and psychological effects even within similar groups if they are surrounded by enough diversity.

    The problems he observes overlap with the problems you describe, it’s just his analysis of the causes are different and very politically incorrect. To my knowledge they have not been refuted, just ignored.
    Diversity is a problem if you treat those who do not look like you poorly. That is where mistrust comes from.. If blacks were not enslaved or treated poorly for so long, they would not have any reason to mistrust whites.

  5. Russel
    January 27, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    If you wish to dismiss it altogether that’ss fine, it’s your blog, but I doubt anyone would miss the fact you are just avoiding the questions. You might as well just say outright you don’t want to deal with it.

    Putnam’s research shows that diversity diminishes psychological well-being and social cohesiveness within and between racial groups. It has nothing to do with history or just whites and blacks. The implication is it is an effect common to humanity.

    We obviously can’t turn back the clock but this really isn’t a simple issue. This is an issue for humanity and what creates positive and healthy communities and individuals.

    The manufactured consent today is pro-diversity. I would have thought the Devil’s Advocate would manifest some skepticism but I guess not!

    Anyway, I get the sense for personal reasons of your own, presumably your race, you don’t want to deal with the questions so I’ll leave it there unless you change your mind.

  1. January 31, 2010 at 3:21 am
  2. December 26, 2017 at 11:45 pm

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