Somewhere between conditioning and fear lies the need to be held tight to the cuddling ironclad belly of consumer capitalism.
Obviously, this applies more to fools (self-included) than horses, who work purely because of conditioning. In horses it’s called ‘breaking’ and it basically means fucking with it until it realises you’re in charge. Although I guess that’s only with wild horses. Horses you raise yourself can probably be taught slowly, in the same manner as dogs. This probably isn’t much more pleasant for the horse, but at least it’s all they know.
Oh. Wait. That is the same for us too isn’t it.
I’m not positing capitalism as a sinister conspiracy here. I’m just saying that in order to fit into this world, we are taught and learn (and then later teach others; peers, children and strangers) a very rigid way of understanding it. Your response to just about everything is dictated by how you’re taught to respond to things as you grow up. This is then reinforced by the fact that most people around you live in the same approximate vision of reality, and so confirm, encourage and regulate that behaviour. It’s also close enough to how the present system works to mean you’re given the reward of all the stuff achieved by having a dominant consensus (the illusory value of money for example).
So you work to get the pieces of paper that buy you the things you’ve been told will make you happy.
And technically, for a lot of people, I’d say that it probably does make them happy. Or at least something like it. If you can commit fully to the system and the belief structure that supports it, then you can keep on chasing the stuffs. We’re going to run out of world soon, but in the mean time, there’s probably enough ‘happiness’ for a portion of the world (probably just a few percent, but don’t go thinking of super rich bankers, think of, well, basically everyone above the ‘western’ poverty line).
The real fools aren’t the people who are just keeping their heads down and doing it though. The fools are the people like me, on the borderline. Aware enough of what’s going on, but too scared to take a jump off the bandwagon and try something different. If I was thoroughly enough conditioned into the local reality tunnel, I probably wouldn’t have to deal with all this angst and self loathing.
I’m pretty sure that where I am is inefficient.
And so I carry on working, not doing horrendous work, but potentially arranging deck chairs on a sinking ship. Trying to learn what I can, but too nervous to make that my priority.
There’s opposite to fear in security. It pulls you in the same direction, even if its a falsity. Security can appear to be another cuddle, but it’s actually a fearsome hold. I feel safe in the knowledge that I’ve got an explanation.
Even if I don’t believe it.
Illustration by Henry