Fictional Dictator

When I think about the developments of culture, the agents of creation and destruction, I can't help but ponder the fundamental instincts we have to create new technologies and products. The Zeitgeist movement offers lots to say about our motivations to make cheap, convenient and disposable products for the market.

In a "M.A.D. (Money As Debt) economy," as Joe Alexopoulos points out at the Los Angeles Zeitgeist Day 2012, we are condemned to repetition, and we waste so many ideas.

When profit is valued over well-being and innovation, our standards are lowered and our lives are indebted to a fictional set of numbers on paper. At the base of this system is a massive computer network of numbers that determines the way we all live: how much we earn, how much we may eat or what we may consume, and if someone doesn't have anything, it's acceptable to blame that individual for his own misery. This is where I agree, though there is so much resistance to change.

However, science has proven countless times over that we live in a world constantly in flux. If the world and space around us is always moving and changing--without any notions of linearity or progress--then why does the human species want to remain in stasis? There is nothing wrong with exploring new possibilities, and we most likely cannot know entirely whether to label something "good" or "bad." At least until we make an attempt to experience it. But the issue of our temporality does complicate things. Life appears to be so linear--we're born, we live, we die. What I propose is to view every moment as an instant with the potential for change.

Here, I would like to quote Edward Abbey. In his book "Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness" he explains so well what I believe to be a desired change in our values: We are preoccupied with time. If we could learn to love space as deeply as we are now obsessed with time, we might discover a new meaning in the phrase to live like men.

It is our attitudes toward human temporality that hinders so much social and economic development. We all want things, and want them to be quick and efficient because, as we've all doubtlessly heard from the mouth of elderly relatives, life is short. Really? There are individuals who accomplish so much in a lifetime. The potential for human innovation is boundless, given the opportunity. In my 23 years of life I have seen cassettes become CDs and now MP3 devices, and that is but one technological development in the entertainment industry. VHS to DVDs to Blueray, and there's no need to mention the skyrocketing technology in the gaming industry. But it's all "industry." The industrial revolution has not ended, and may not be over until we consider reshaping our notions of "industries." The profit motive is and has always been present in every industry; our art and culture is a profit-seeking industry itself! What's so disagreeable with this profit motive, many people will ask. It gives us computers and automobiles; it provides us with doctors and teachers.

My response to such a question is in the form of another question. Would you rather have a surgeon operate on you that has her job because she is being paid to do it, or because of her desire to be helping people who are sick? Would you rather your child's teacher be in the classroom because of his wage, or because he loves interacting and sharing knowledge with students? And would you rather the computers you buy be replaced every year with new components and pieces simply because the company needs more profit? Or keep the same computer until new innovative and necessary technology arises and your old one is easily recycled? The value is there, in our choices and actions.

The funny thing is, and I mean this in the sense that it is strange and disconnected from our very humanity, is that our present economic system does not recognize human values even though we carry them individually. With every dollar spent we are valuing a certain item and telling--in numbers--what we want more of. This numeracy is a form of communication, to a system of numbers we are all part of and yet fragmented by. So we keep spending--and some keep hoarding even though currency ought to be kept in circulation--because it is a delusional security blanket for us to spend what we earned the way we see fit. And thus we keep accumulating, no matter how redundant or how unnecessary any of it really is. So the way I see our present "MAD economy" is as a kind of dictatorship. But we are all being ruled by a fictional and universal dictator that is the monetary system we've created. We are a creative species; why not create something else now?


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Fri, 04/20/2012 - 3:29pm | You might want to change the (Score: 1)
Fri, 04/20/2012 - 4:52pm | Definitely. Thanks for the (Score: 1)