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The Age of Selfishness

Malik Shabazz



The upcoming elections have reminded me of something, something that is evident to most people in the world, except, for whatever reason, Americans: The American culture and ethos, for the past 40 years, has been based on selfishness (or its PC-term, "individualism") and neo-liberalism, the misguided belief that rich and powerful people can somehow solve all of our problems, and therefore we must protect and defend them at all costs, with Trump being the clear example. Trump's appeal is that he is a rich man who owns his own company, so that automatically means that he knows how to run a country, despite the fact that he has not given an intelligent and outlined plan, and really is nothing more than a buffoon. This Gallup poll outlines the frustration, alienation, and disapproval with American politics: http://www.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/179477/americans-frustration-congress-elections.aspx 


American political discourse is dominated by neo-liberalism, in every considerable way. So much, that any policy advocated that will help the disadvantaged, and limit the privilege of the rich, is considered to be "class warfare", even though class warfare is conducted, every single day, by the privileged against those who are privileged, through law, the structure of our education system (another subject in its entirety), and other means. This is not limited to politics, it is us, our society, that have been influenced by this neo-liberal philosophy. If our politicians represent us, then they do a very good job at it. It's why I choose not to vote, simply because I have no illusions that a politician can improve these conditions. A government is only as good as the society it represents. What's the solution? I honestly don't know if there is any solution outside of a revolution, not a violent revolution, but a spiritual one, one that is based on truth and radical love, and also a cultural and philosophical one, a new renaissance of sorts, considering the fact that stupidity and ignorance greatly contribute to these conditions.


But I don't see that happening... and it's worth noting that I, by expressing this opinion, am not being self-righteous, nor am I speaking from a position of intellectual superiority. I am saying this because I believe it to be true, not because I'm not guilty of being an acolyte of this philosophy as well. The truth is that I, quite honestly, no longer care because I, as an individual, am powerless to do anything about it on the macro-level. We, as a nation can, but do we want to? Do I want to? Do you want to? The only thing I can do is be the change that I want to see in my everyday life, opposing unfair hierarchies, materialism, and individualism, and trying to be as altruistic as possible. It's hard, and it is why I use the term "we" instead of "you" or "y'all", because I am as influenced by this Age of Selfishness as the next man, and I am as guilty in perpetuating it. That does not mean, however, that we can't try. But we don't, we just continue to perpetuate it.


I don't follow the "human nature" argument, and that is not the argument I'm making, it's complete BS, and it's also a cop-out. Human beings have the capacity to do good, however, we live in a society that rewards greed and selfishness more than it rewards justice, which is what makes it much more difficult to do good because "what's the point?" right?



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For some reason, even though I agree with a lot of what you say here, I tend to use different words to describe it. A matter of being from different generations perhaps? A lot of what you say has been said before, many times in fact. When you say 'neo-liberalism' I tend to think of as 'progressive'. While I despise what that word  has come to mean today, when I looked up the early history of the Progressive movement in California I would say I agree with most of what they stood for then. Somehow along the way it has mutated into something else though.


When you talk about 'the age of selfishness' I still think in terms of 'the age of the anti-hero', where for some reason people glorify anti-social behavior; your term is probably more straight forward though.


"and also a cultural and philosophical one, a new renaissance of sorts, considering the fact that stupidity and ignorance greatly contribute to these conditions. "


^Regarding this: There is something that I have become more aware of the last 10 years or so, that I don't put into words often since i am a fairly anti-social person. Perhaps that's not the best term, I would say I am more self interested then selfish, but that is a distinction most people might not bother to make. Getting back to the point though, before electronics sort of took over people's lives, I think people were more articulate, informed, and just intelligent through more frequent exercise of the faculties. In short, they read more, and wrote far more then the present generations. This come out very forcefully when you read books from before the electronic revolution; when I first started doing that, I found myself reaching for a dictionary a lot since they were more facile with their words and had a greater vocabulary then I did then. It's not merely a greater ability to split hairs or simply having more choices. I think the more visual and aural orientation of today's media has had a negative effect on our collective intelligence; just listening and watching does not engage our intellect to the same degree. The relentless simplification of everything down to the"NO U!" and emoticon level does not help either. Though Lord know I contribute to that myself since I love to use emoticons to express tone. Text is a lousy medium of expression by itself. :P Just watching people walk around all day with their attention focused on their phones almost to the exclusion of everything else will bring this point home.


"The truth is that I, quite honestly, no longer care because I, as an individual, am powerless to do anything about it on the macro-level "


You said it yourself already, but that is the worst sort of excuse a person can make. Maybe it is because you are a pessimist? I don't like just putting people into categories like that, things are rarely that simple, but the case can be made that people really do fall into one or the other category there, optimist or pessimist. The real question though, is whether it is possible to move from one group to the other? There was a movie I saw once, set in South Africa called "The Power of One" that kind of refutes that statement of yours that I just quoted, you might want to look it up some time?


This may all come down to perspective, some people are just relentless when it comes to looking for the silver lining in every situation. Those people tend to be the one who have self confidence, which seems to be the key to moving forward despite seemingly insuperable obstacles. I just saw a magazine cover the other day that had Steve harvey featured on it. He went from being homeless and living out of his car for three years to being worth over $100 million. Do you think HE is a pessimist?


Besides, what ever happened to,"A good deed is it's own reward"? Whether you succeed or fail in your endeavors, doing what you know or believe to be the right thing should be able to bring you to at least emotional equilibrium. You may very well not be able t changes things for the better at the macro level, but that isn't the point of life anyway. I find the Eastern religions are far more coherent on this sort of thing.


I'm sorry for the wall of text Malik, but when I see someone talking like this it really irritates me for some reason. "The struggle is the glory" works for me, and I get really frustrated with people who sit around doing nothing because they think nothing matters.  If we don't try, nothing will change, that I can guarantee.



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Finding meaning in the struggle is generally how I make it, Margie, but I can understand the despondence when you look up and see riches among those who've never struggled to make it. What you often don't see is the debt-slavery that those riches are bought with. Stores sell credit cards because no one wants a customer anymore, they want a subscriber. They want someone who will make payments so the store can have a regular income, even if they have to front you merchandise.


I highly advise anyone despairing their situation in life listen to Terrance McKenna. He may have been an old hippie and didn't always have a rigorous methodology, but he does a great deal to shake the chains that society puts on you, until you realize that modern culture has been constructed so that no one can completely win. Needs are manufactured one hundredfold by the media, and it's important to take a step back so that your mind can reset to your actual life and real needs. You might be amazed at how much it differs from the needs forced on you by TV shows, movies, and celebrity gossip.


To use CN as an example: modern culture would have you struggle for NS to the detriment of all else. When you look up and see DBDC, you know there's no way to get there. It's too late for any new players to reach that level. But that's just one metric of value, and you might find that it isn't the one that resonates with you the most. There's warfare (aka "the struggle"). There's relationships. And there's searching through the player base for new and interesting personalities.


I don't know enough about your life to give you any valuation of it. But try testing your values, first, before you judge life too harshly. You might be surprised to discover things that you had forgotten.

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I  fully agree with an idea of a cultural revolution as the only antidote against the excesses of individualism but I think that the main problem is that individualism has already infected on a very deep level even the progressive front: identity politics is another face of individualism and it split the progressives, making  them divided and weak. A truly  progressive front would focus against the main source of privilege, that is wealth and especially family wealth. Instead wealth doesn't seems to be their main concern, nor even a concern at all sometimes.



Edited by Greatest Mothers
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