Everything is wrong and nobody cares (part 1)

Leia esta digressão em português

Ok, saying that everything is wrong may be an exaggeration and saying that nobody cares may also be an unfair generalization, but society is messed up and the majority of people don’t seem to care enough.

Let’s take a look on how doomed we are.

But before I start, let me say that most of these are obvious. Most people know about these and I’m really just stating the obvious. But that’s something important to do, state the obvious. Somebody needs to be periodically stating the obvious for us for a real simple reason: We are blind to the obvious. We systematically fail to see the most obvious things around us. Most of us, at least. And there’s no demerit on it. I believe that this happens as a result of how our brain works naturally. Our brain is one of the most fantastic and contradictory machine ever. It has amazing abilities and capabilities, yet it can be so limited in some areas.

One of its amazing features is the ability to put some tasks on the automatic mode, clearing some processing capacity. You don’t need to remember to breath, you do it automatically. But that until someone points out that you have to breath. You don’t heed to remember to blink your eyes, you do it automatically. But only until you start using a PC/tablet/smartphone. You don’t need to think to hold a pen and you don’t need to think that much to be able to do the writing movement. You do need to think to write (mainly about what you’re going to write, unless you don’t mind writing some utter crap stuffs, like we normally do when we’re half asleep during boring classes), but you don’t need to be constantly thinking that you need to move your hand in a circular motion to write “o” and on a perpendicular motion to write “I” and so forth. You already know how to do that mechanical part so your brain turn on the “auto” mode to deal with that boring stuff and uses the freed processing power to the cool stuff that is thinking about what to write.

This is also related to the ability our brain have to filter the useless and the constants. If you stay on an environment with constant background noise on a level low enough not to drive you deaf/nuts, chances are that after some time the background noise will disappear. Ok, it won’t disappear, it’s just that your brain stopped processing it. Stare at an object and all the surrounding will be blurred and won’t be processed by your brain. And these happens automatically. The constants are automatically filtered by our brains in order to spend energy paying attention to something more important, that are changing, something that constants don’t do because, well, they’re constants, they’re not expected to change drastically in a short span of time. And the obvious is a constant. Therefore our brains filters it and stop processing it, which means we don’t pay attention to it as closely as we do to the oddballs from our daily life. Sometimes, even when the obvious becomes the oddball we don’t notice because our brains didn’t update the filter because the transition of the obvious to the oddball wasn’t abrupt enough to call our attention. That’s one reason why it’s important that someone states the obvious for us every once in a while, so we can pay attention to it and check whether it became the oddball (which I believe already happened, but not enough people are telling us the obvious so we don’t notice). The other reason is that your obvious may not be my obvious and vice-verse so exchanging our obvious is a good reality check.
So, let’s do it.

Ok, we all want changes. We want a better life. We want a better house. We want a better country. We want a new government. We want a better security system. We want a new health system. We want better democracy. We want to be heard for a change.

We want a better life, despite not knowing what the hell a better life is. More money? Lots of studies have shown that money, despite making a difference in happiness, is not the most crucial factor. Maybe a better life is not a happier life? Maybe it’s an easier life? Maybe we want a life in which we don’t have to work to earn money? We want a life in which we can travel as much as we want and do whatever we want without worries? Sounds good, right? I don’t think anybody would complain about such life. I wouldn’t. Ok, but do we want to have this all for ourselves? We want someone to share this, right? After all, we are a social species. We live in society, we live in groups, we need social contact. But then, if only a few people can have a life like yours, you’ll feel in danger and will be cautious about who you’re interacting with. Maybe that “friend” is just approaching you to parasitize you? Maybe that “girlfriend/boyfriend” is not really interested in you, but in what you can offer? Then you could end up wishing that you didn’t have so much, or that you had real friends, or that all of your friends had the same opportunities as you. Well, if everybody could live this kind of life, how well would the world work? Maybe better than we imagine. I believe there are people who really enjoy their work and there are people who don’t stop working even after they have enough money to, just because they enjoy doing their work. But now think about this, are we prepared to cope with a relation where both/all parties have absolute freedom? Who knows? If everybody can do whatever they want, would we be willing to try to balance the desires of everyone to reach a common decision? Or would we be more willing to ignore anyone who shows a diverging opinion? Hard question. But really, do we know what a “better life” is? Can we actually find an answer for this question? A one-size-fits-all answer is unlikely to exist for this, but do we really care about it? Do we really think hard enough about it? But it’s a question about a reality so unlikely to happen so no big deal, right?

We want a better and a fairer health system, despite having no clue about what is “better and fairer”. Free for all is “better and fairer”? Each pays your own is “better and fairer”? The market knows what’s the best and the fairest? The State knows what’s the best and the fairest? Well, do we know what is the best and the fairest? I don’t think we know, and guess what? Both “market” and “State” are part of us. If “we” don’t know, why should a part of us know? But still, we do believe that either one knows what’s the best option. Gosh…

We want an improved democracy, one that is fairer and listens to everybody. Yet we don’t even know how to listen to our neighbors and fail to see how faulty a democratic system really is. Is a system that obeys 51% of the population and ignores 49% the best system we can come up with? Is a system that obeys to 70% and ignores 30% the best we can come up with? Really? Ignoring the minority, regardless of how big this minority is doesn’t seem to be fair or noble.

We want changes. We want changes that will make everything better. Yet we don’t want to change. We want changes without having to change. Changing is too troublesome. Changing requires effort and effort means leaving the lower-energy state and going to a higher energy state, which breaks the natural tendency of any system (one could argue that that is why we all hate to leave our beds and prefer to stay and sleep). But not only that, changing means leaving the comfort of the known to venture to the uncomfortable unknown. We don’t know how to cope the what we don’t know. Specially when we’re talking about the long-term unknown. And it seems natural to be bad at dealing with the long-term unknown. There are so many factors that are completely out of your control that we can’t possibly foresee every single possibility so we cope with this limitation imposed by our brain capacity. The problem is how we cope with it. The most common ways are ignoring the long-term or considering that everything stays the same (ask the economists, they’ll say that). Changes are hard to deal with. I don’t think we can really get used to constant changing. Stability is way too appealing for us to give up on it for the sake of instability and sticking with stability is also the most certain way to stay on the low-energy state. Some people accept changing? Sure, that’s why humanity progressed so much during it’s existence. But the group responsible for these changes were the minority. Most of us are in the majority who loves the low-energy state, just like the rest of the universe naturally loves.

In other words, we all want everything to change, besides ourselves. We want the world to change us. But everybody wants that and everybody hopes that it’ll happen. Well, guess what? If the world just waits for the world to change, the world won’t change anytime soon. It’s hard to accept, isn’t it? Now is that moment when we start hating inertia and start cursing Isaac Newton as if he was the responsible for its existence. Oh, how naive. And then we realize that there are some people (often called “dreamers”, “nuts” or even “idiots”) that actually take their time to try to change the world and make a difference and we just accommodate and wait for them to do the change we’re all longing for or we just fight back because they’re different from us. Oh, the contradiction. But we don’t care. Or don’t we?

Some smart people noticed this situation and decided to make some money on it. How they do it? By selling us the obvious. Yes, the obvious statement from the previous paragraph, “if the world just waits for the world to change, the world won’t change anytime soon”, but change “world” to “you”. Yes, you won’t change if you just wait. So go and change yourself. By changing yourself and your own perspective, the world will change! Why, thank you Captain Obvious!

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