NOTE: A more polished and slightly edited version of this essay in PDF format is free to download from here (17 pages).
Great way to start an essay about the future, right?
But as it stands right now, at the moment I’m writing this essay… we are screwed. That means all of us, even the so-called “elite” members of society.
But with that said, I have hope. I have hope that we have the keys to a successful future right in our hands. The important thing to grasp about those keys to our future however … is they are in our hands.
That means all of us. No one will have an excuse to sit on the couch and “bury their head in the sand” while the dangerous world we live in passes them by.
Like the climate.
No one can sit there and deny that the climate is changing, and if they do, they will be part of the problem rather than the solution for the future. They will be mis-handling their “key.”
No one will be able to sit there and make statements like “Oh those greenies, they just shout at us, then do nothing themselves.”
Because you aren’t doing anything yourself, either.
But soon, we won’t have a choice, the big systems of Nature will keep working whether we choose to address their problems or not. So, we won’t have a choice but to acknowledge their presence.
A wise old man once taught me “Nature always seeks, and finds, balance.”
There is more wisdom packed into that single statement than can be published in 1000 pages of a book.
But enough about Nature…
You’ve got to get a late-model car, you’ve got to upgrade to the 5314 LTE model smartphone, because it just came out, and you’ve just got to get Apple’s latest release on launch day.
I’m calling bullshit on the incessant need to upgrade everything. If you believe the hype and marketing, your life improves every time some new “talk and surf at the same time” gadget comes out.
How is that “good”?
Who said that doing more and more in the same time frame is good?
Then, there’s examining why we upgrade our cars, gadgets, tools, etc… even though the prior versions probably did exactly what we needed to.
Yep, you want to show off.
You want to be the one who was there on launch day, the one to drive off the lot in a bright, shiny new model of the car you already have, and you need to get the latest computer because you “need” more speed/memory/etc… (hint: You probably don’t).
Plus, the perception (also created by the marketing companies) is everyone else is doing it too. Come on, admit it, you feel the peer pressure, and run down to the Apple store to get the latest Airbook.
Because you want to feel like a part of something.
So, if what I’ve written seems to relate to you, I’m telling you to STOP. You’ll save money, STILL be able to be productive, and here’s the big point to this article…
… nobody really cares whether or not you have the latest, greatest mousetrap in existence anyhow.
Read the above again.
People are far too busy with their own lives to give a crap about what you have, and when they do acknowledge your latest upgrade… it usually boils down to a mere “15 minutes of fame” for you.
Do you really need your 15 minutes that badly?
Think about that today. I did, and once I stopped “upgrading” all the time, I found:
—> I saved money.
—> Nobody really cared about what I had in the first place, for the most part.
—> The people that did care, really were showing it out of envy, or jealousy.
Is upgrading really that important?
The problems don’t stop there either, because…
We keep killing each other.
Do you understand the implications behind that statement? Do you really, deep down in your heart … get it?
I think you do.
We. Keep. Killing. Each. Other.
We kill each other over stupid things like land, religious beliefs, money, power, and on, and on…
We need to grow up as a society. We need to evolve past the need to kill each other over what amounts to really trivial things … some of these things published in books that are thousands of years old.
Do you get that?
Books that are thousands of years old are dictating to us that it is okay to kill people for conflicting beliefs.
But it’s not just the books…
Power hungry people from our own leadership kill other human beings in the interest of puffing their chest out … like some game of Risk … WITH HUMAN LIVES.
And we let them.
Each and every day we let them, because they have convinced us that “it is okay to do this.”
Is it really okay? Are you sure?
This brings up an all too important question about our society…
Are We Becoming Mindless Drones?
I have this deep desire to see our society (mainly in the U.S.) further develop the desire to become deeply self-accountable and self-reliant so we don’t have to rely on the Government, corporations, media, or other entities to provide for us in any way.
Also, we would then begin to regain our currently eroding freedom of choice if we didn’t have the need to rely on others to make those choices for us.
Sometimes I think we want to just be “mindless drones” as a society.
For a variety of reasons, and some of them represent very deep subjects to discuss, which I won’t cover in great detail.
Let’s get started…
And a little warning, this one’s NOT going to be a “warm and fuzzy” experience…
1) We mindlessly consume at a furious pace, buying and using “stuff” for no good reason (especially in the U.S., commonly referred to as “first world problems”).
Not thinking of the future impact that type of consumption can have on our finances, our environment, etc… sometimes in the interest of one-upping our neighbors, and guess what?
No one human has EVER been nor will ever be better than another, no matter how much or what type of “stuff,” money, or success you have.
We’re all in this cosmic experiment together.
In fact, I would challenge you might be compensating for some other shortcoming if you fall into the camp of always trying to “beat the Joneses.”
Of course, it’s a free country, and your entitled to keep doing this, but that doesn’t excuse the fact you still could be a large part of a bigger problem down the road.
2) We mindlessly blame others, or our circumstances, our lack of resources etc… for our various shortcomings in life.
There is only one person who is accountable for where you are in life, what success you have (or don’t have), how much income you make etc… YOU.
No one else, no other person, set of circumstances, lack of resources etc… are at fault for where you’re at in life.
Only you are accountable for your results.
The government isn’t going to bail you out.
And now our government is controlled by corporate interests for the most part. This means the government, and those corporate interests, do NOT always have your best interests at heart.
Get over it.
Create your own circumstances, find your resources, don’t be lazy enough to stop short of everything you want to accomplish.
It would be great if we could all have everything handed to us on a plate, a gold plate, but that isn’t going to happen.
So you have to pick something and get REALLY good at it, you have to say “no” to certain opportunities that might cross your path while you’re getting really good at something.
You will get bumps and bruises along the way, every time, but you have to get up and go at it again. That, or become a mindless drone. Either way, the choice is yours and no one else’s, with the positive or negative consequences of that choice.
3) Generally, the mainstream media does NOT have your best interest at heart.
These companies are “for profit” companies, interested in “getting eyeballs” for advertisers, and sometimes selling those eyeballs (the data) to those advertisers.
That is their mission, period.
So, everything you’re seeing on the news is NOT necessarily 100% true or accurate, and is mostly biased opinion.
In fact, I would challenge you, even you older folks who watch the news media every day, to stop watching altogether.
This applies to online media as well, so… while it might be a little challenging, consume only enough of the “online media,” all with a grain of salt, to help understand your position on a topic.
But never more.
Bottom line, the consumption of media (which includes information of any type) has to be kept in moderation, or we risk being turned into mindless drones, and operating our lives only by the media we consume.
4) Your health, you NEED to focus on it starting now and continue doing so for the rest of your life(especially in the U.S., where obesity is becoming the disgusting norm instead of the exception).
I only realized the true depth of the importance of this in late 2010, and I’m fucking pissed that it took me that long to realize it.
Folks, processed “food” items like soda, ice cream, pies, candy etc… are NOT good for you, and you should STOP eating them 100%, starting today.
In fact, these nasty creations of the food industry are probably at fault for more of the obesity problem we have in the U.S. than anything else.
That of course is just an educated guess, but I’ll bet it’s true.
Here’s the sad part, most of the people who read the advice above will do NOTHING with it.
And I didn’t either until late 2010.
These people will suffer the consequences of this negligence, then blame some outside circumstances as to why they remain fat and out of shape.
THEN, even worse, they will continue this destructive pattern until their premature death from circumstances they could have controlled easily.
BTW, see this post by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits if you’re using excuses to not get fit.
NOTE: There are a few individuals who have documented medical conditions which cause other diseases like diabetes, obesity, etc… those people are the exception, not the rule in this case.
Most people are perfectly capable of changing their circumstances if they are willing to make it their lifestyle.
Another key here, you have to be willing to make your “good health” your lifestyle… not just try to address it with some fad diet or exercise program.
When you are fit, when you eat well and take care of yourself, it becomes who you are.
It isn’t some pie in the sky, one-time fix. You won’t eat or drink the “bad stuff” any longer, because it isn’t a part of your life any longer.
But sometimes, when I observe people, I get the feeling they would rather meander mindlessly throughout life (like, well, mindless drones) than to make the changes necessary to improve themselves.
And that my dear reader, is a really sad state of affairs.
A state of affairs that needs to be corrected, or we can just give up and all become mindless drones as a society.
Hey, it’s a free country, anyone can do exactly what they want, along with enduring all of the positive and negative consequences that come with those choices.
Bottom line, the choice remains yours… but it’s one or the other, black and white, because it’s one life choice or the other.
And I think, as a society, we are each most certainly better than who we are now, way better in fact.
In none of the items above am I talking about major, world-changing shifts or “success-guru” type of stuff. It’s more about self-accountability, more about wanting to improve ourselves.
And less about reducing ourselves to becoming mindless drones… meandering about, consuming, blaming, trolling, spamming, harming, restricting, not thinking, etc…
To me, learning the lessons that I have over the last couple of decades or so, it’s becoming more and more about common sense and self-accountability.
Can it be? I think so.
But let’s go deeper into that news media for a minute…
The News Media
We have a news media that plays the role of Government stenographer.
They relay what their told, making it “sound” controversial when it isn’t, because it’s “safe” media (I’m referring to mainstream, “seen everyday on TV or in print” news media).
We don’t need “safe” media news outlets anymore.
We need news media that takes risks, people who are willing to go to jail if that is what it takes to get the truth out there, not parrots or stenographers.
We are falling for the “safe” news reporting. Not all of us, but a good portion of us.
We need to quit listening to Fox News, The New York Times, even The Guardian at times … and start listening to the people who have proven themselves to report the story that needs to be reported (note: start here, but do your homework).
But when I’m suggesting “quit listening” … I’m suggesting that now, not tomorrow, not next week … right now.
Cancel your subscriptions, quit watching Fox on the TV, etc… but do it now, because from my personal experience, if you don’t do it today, you won’t do it.
Is this seriously where we want to spend our valuable (and limited for now) time on this Earth?
Developing (and using) an app like Yo?
But not just Yo, I’m also referring to any app, service, trinket, gadget, garbage reality TV, etc… that isn’t useful for society.
I mean, how much entertainment, “spectacle-oriented,” mindless activity do we need?
And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for us living in a free society … doing what we want to, but come on?
At some point we have to drop the excess and say enough is enough, right? Right?
The only way it stops, is if we stop showing interest with our time, money, labor, whatever.
But it’s all on us. Us. US.
No one else is coming from another planet to save us, no enlightened being will make sure everything is okay…
… it’s all on us. All of us.
Not just the scientists, writers, the Government etc…
Each and every one of us has to take a small step that leads to bigger ones. We have the intelligence, we have the resources, we have the technology (but tech alone is NOT going to save us either).
That means you, dear reader … and me. It means your neighbor, your Post Office delivery person.
Every one of us. We have one chance to make the most of our future.
So wake up!
If all of us don’t connect with each other, think together, and work together to make the future ours … well … there are some very real problems that will bring the possibility of extinction of our human race (in addition to the climate, the economy, our work, etc…).
And you can say that I’m a doomsayer, that these problems won’t happen for 100 years, 500 years, whatever … but why would you want to be part of the reason they happened at all?
I think we have an opportunity, an opportunity to prove all of the anti-civilization folks wrong. But it’s going to require a momentous effort from 7 billion (or so) people on this planet to make it happen.
No, you don’t have to do “everything” that might be roaming through your head right now, today … it would be foolish to think that would solve everything (at once) anyhow.
Shorter showers isn’t the answer, we need to solve the underlying problem, and quick. Us.
So, whenever someone asks me…
I’m optimistic overall, contrary to what you might be thinking after reading this.
But I do worry that humans generally focus on the wrong problems (e.g. using technology to perfect themselves instead of using it to advance civilization for the better).
I’m worried that instead, we will use our technological advances to destroy one another so that specific groups of the human society will “win.”
I see our desire to “win,” to “be first,” to “be perfect,” and our greed as the main obstacles to the future I’m optimistic for.
Jobs are going to change, evolve, maybe even stop being a “thing.”
Disease in fact can be stopped, but we have to get our “greed” out of the way first. Education is evolving, but needs to do so at a much more furious pace (an exponential pace, in fact) to help the next generations of our species evolve society.
I would love to see us instead actually use our technologies to create things that can do their own important work for our human society.
But corporations, and our current form of capitalism must evolve or go away completely to reach that objective.
Final Note: With the exception of a couple of posts that are in queue right now for later in the year … this will probably be the last post I write on this blog for awhile.
I’m not ditching the blog at all, though. Just a hiatus.
I will also continue to update the book’s website, because the book itself is an extension of that website.
But true to the word of my book “The Slow Manifesto” … I’m taking life at a much slower pace, enjoying every step of the way … while doing what I can (as a human) to “be the change I want to see in the world.”
Thank you, dear reader … I’m not much for words (if you know me well, you know I’m an introverted geek).
I couldn’t have made it this far without you.