You may marvel at the skyscrapers and spacecraft society has built, yet that same social order fails to tell ordinary people what is good to eat, how to find mates, or how to have babies. The same state that sends rockets to the moon fails miserably in every realm of knowledge a primitive society takes for granted. Surely the basic things that concern everyone ought to be resolved long before anyone is worried about space.
Civilization has always been unjust with little care for the needs of most people. Since the first cities, mass society has been a tool to serve the interests of a few who control the land and its resources. The people who showed up to work for shares of surplus grain became cogs in a machine that made someone else’s dreams come true. Not too much changes without there being something in it for those on top of the pyramid. It explains why modern societies can invent intercontinental missiles yet can’t figure out how to prevent fat from going straight to your ass.
The big problem that has always plagued rulers is there’s competitors out there armed with their own social machines. For thousands of years, they’ve been locked in a race, pressured to find a competitive edge. The same old pattern has continued to the present age; even the glorified space race between the US and the Soviets was just a pissing match between rival landlords.
Today, tall buildings stand as monuments of intimidation and legitimacy like the pyramids of old, each looking skyward in awe made to feel like a puny subject. We take these skyscrapers as proof of the natural superiority of the hive and subordinate ourselves to its narrative. In the name of skyscrapers we don’t own, modern medicine we can’t pay for, and spaceships we’ll never fly in, we willingly throw away our lives on the job and on the battlefield. We forget we’re descendants of the first people who traded away their own story to be an extra in a movie about someone else. Generation after generation has ground out with most everyone serving as lesser cells in a body with a mind of its own.
The truth that we’re born-and-bred slave dogs is an unpleasant one. Thankfully, we’re indoctrinated from birth to identify with a concept of civilization that supposedly brings us light and progress. We look up to and cheer for a nation, a culture, a civilization just as a hapless laborer with no struggle of his own finds solace in cheering for a sports team. We follow the news like the sports fan watches a game to gain a false sense of control over the world around us. We may keep score and develop an opinion about big events, but no one asked us what we thought—not the boss, not the woman, especially not the people who make real decisions. No one cares. The news is just a respectable tabloid. We delude ourselves that we’re participants in “something larger.” We’re not. We’re just being dragged along for the ride. Our knowledge or ignorance, consent or lack of consent makes no difference.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter if some billionaires and government officials sent spaceships to Mars. At least not until you’re in a position where it makes sense to care. If like most people you’re struggling with having enough money to live and enough sex to be content, why do you care? Caring about spaceships and tall buildings is a surplus pursuit fit for the dukes and barons. It’s not for you.
It’s something to think about next time someone waxes sentimental about the “achievements of civilization”™
If you’re really honest with yourself, you’ll realize you’re just a subsistence level peasant. The buildings and technologies aren’t yours, nor do they belong to a gigantic abstract “we.” They’re just properties you’ll be working to rent out until you’re dead. In truth, you’re just a barbarian visitor to this place that other people already built. Your stake in this is imaginary, your sense of participation and self-importance delusional.
Would we be better off just plundering everything the rulers have built? Skyscrapers, moon landings, electricity, vaccines, and cars are impressive monuments that convince us to passively accept that civilization is beneficial, or at least more beneficial than any alternative. But are even hot showers worth a lifetime of humiliating labor? Does a microwave oven justify spending 40 years on a career that helped make someone else rich? Does it really even matter if we’re able to live a few decades longer? We currently spend the first 30 years of life trapped in school, getting more school and simply waiting for older people to die off. Isn’t it actually a better deal to be all worn out by age 50 after living for real from our early teens?
Since the beginning, the trinkets produced by civilization have confused our ability to distinguish between needs and conveniences. We’d never consider joining a society that offered us blu-ray movies but no bread, so why do we stay loyal like hand-licking dogs when we’re offered washing machines and computers but no sex—and with the added ball and chain of a job just to keep us off the streets and out of jail?
Facing reality is tough, but understanding the situation on the ground is the first step to cease being a pawn and look after your own interests, not those of some intangible state or civilization that isn’t even capable of caring you exist—but will gladly drain you dry if you let it. Ironically a detached attitude does more to “make the world a better place” than any amount of well-intentioned idealism. Whether through governments, rents, or wages, we always get offered the worst deal most people are willing to accept.
A populace that understands reality does a better job of looking out for itself to the betterment of everyone. We can be assets to each other rather than competitors. The conveniences of civilization can be worthwhile additions to life but food, shelter, sex, friends, family, leisure, autonomy come first. Whenever we find ourselves filling a black hole with modern distractions we need to make a list of our basic needs and see if they’re being met. Every day, we ought to look past distractions like politics and “entertainment” to ask ourselves: is it really a better deal than we’d get in a grass hut?
Read More: What Society Values