Sunday, April 23, 2017

what's really real, really

Do we want to be comfortable, independent, gluttonous, educated, liked, or accomplished - how much of it is inherently human, how much of it is shaped by the culture we're steeped in?  How much of it is obscured by the realities of the choices we're forced to make?  What we want is largely the consequence of what we believe achievable, and what we're willing to sacrifice or risk.  What we want is really a rather complicated equation, barely touched on here.  They're both right, in a way.

Can we really blame much of our laziness on advertising and capitalist propaganda?  Or are they just capitalizing on our inherent laziness?  This is another example of an emergent process, in which the truth is the culmination of all these different factors.  It's all natural and innately human, in the sense that it's what's naturally developed.  The basic building blocks of physiology and genetics are meaningless without an environment to interact with.  There is nothing innate to biology, until it becomes a factor amidst a constantly changing world, in which life always has to adapt, even as that same life shapes the world it's adapting to.

I think a lot about what I want, and I really don't know.  It's easy to say that I want a hot fudge sundae, but not if I have to crawl across broken glass to get it.  Why the whole world feels like broken glass to me, I don't know, but it has a lot to do with why I choose not to deal with it.  I live much like the lazy slob Wallace Shawn depicts in the above clip, just trying to live as comfortably as possible.  Not because I don't want more, but because this is the culmination of all the factors in my life, some of that being the society I've had to adjust to, but there's a lot more to it, as well.

One might also forgo said hot fudge sundae, if one lives somewhere in which ice cream isn't attainable, and the fudge is terrible, or if one merely doesn't want to gorge themselves on the misery of dairy farming.  We might also want things, in theory.  Wanting some imagined version of something, realistic enough not to seem so outlandish, and yet, not realistic in our own personal experience.  The human world also seems largely both unattainable and terrible to me.  Rational or not, that's been my experience.  Am I too much of an idealist, too sensitive and discriminating, suffering the burdens of too much good taste, or not the right balance of dopamine to ever really enjoy anything real - maybe all relevant factors.

What we want can depend on what's has been rewarding to us, as opposed to what's been disappointing, frustrating, painful.  A society in which people's wants are heavily curtailed will be full of people who settle for laying around watching TV, eating ice cream, feeling angry and bad about themselves.  Caught in the vicious cycle of being barraged by media that depicts a wealthier unobtainable world, in which the advertisers' wealthier targeted demographics live.  Creating expectations about life that aren't going to be met by all the couch potatoes they're influencing, setting the populace up for disillusionment, disappointment, but plenty of ice cream to satiate themselves with.

What we want can also be discussed in terms of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, in which at the base, we have the necessities of survival.  Some might even say that we're fine, as long as we have that much.  Among those who only have that much though, you generally get a whole lot of disagreement, and extraordinarily high mortality rates for people that are supposedly surviving.  Each need is merely dependent on the level before it, but they're all important if you want a healthy civilization.

Chomsky is right, of course, that those needs are not likely to be well met, by striving only for material comfort, but "what we want" is much too simplistic a question.  We want all sorts of things, but we take what we can get.

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