A Story by The Darkest Silhouette

I like to ask myself why we are the way we are.  I guess that’s makes sense with me being a psyche major and all, or more that me being a psyche major makes sense because of that.  I think it’s important to think about cause and effect.


I started reading up on psychology to answer the big “why we are the way we are” riddle.  And I discovered a lot of fun answers to a lot of little things, and possible ways to fix things for some people, but a big answer (besides everyone in the world taking a few good psyche classes) just didn’t seem to be there.  Most of psychology is fairly specific.  People are grouped, defined, and answers are given.  If those answers aren’t good enough than they are tweaked to fit the person through one on one evaluation.  Sure, psychology can be good for everyone, awareness of it is crucial, but it offers no broad answers.  Or at least it doesn’t give a definitive answer to why the world is the way it is.  Or at least not a sound byte.


I started contemplating Social Evolution.  I started thinking about history.  Things have obviously changed, even in our lifetimes.  We notice that, and generally find it acceptable because we use the start of our lives to evaluate the present.  “It’s better than when I was a kid,” or “when I was a kid things weren’t this bad”.  We neglect to realize that at some point in everyone’s life, through out time, people have sat back and thought, “boy, things sure have changed” even if only a little.


The ultimate problem here is, we are looking at too small a picture.  Our experience, in our lifetime.  Also, we seem to forgot to ask ourselves how those changes have changed us.  We underestimate how much our environment changes us.


What I’m trying to sat is that, we weren’t always like this, not even remotely.  And even though you can’t see it (because we accept these changes so freely, thinking of many of them as “a part of growing up” or life getting “better“).


On a small, more imaginable scale, there’s cell phones.  For a species that has been around for thousands of years, we have only been using cell phones for a few years.  On a larger scale you would need a magnifying glass to see the cell phone age.  Yet already we have changed so much of the way we live to suit these devices.  We (by which I mean my generation, kids born in the late 80’s and early 90’s) saw cell phones as a coming of age thing.  When we turned 14 or 16 or whatever we got one, and I don’t think we ever looked at that moment any farther than, “I’m old enough that I should have a cell phone now”.  And that’s conservative viewpoint.  Most of us probably thought “need” instead of “should have“.


So why did we need them to begin with when our parents didn’t at the same age? And why does our eight year old sister have one?  Society’s changing demands due to a changing societal opinion on having a good life. 


In kindergarten and such I always questioned putting “Car” in the needs category when obviously, people could live without them.  And obviously had, for a loooooong time.  Air, shelter, water, food.  That’s it.  Biologically, of course.  And all of that can be pulled off without money.


In fact, money is one of those “modern day” needs.  Yeah, it’s been around for awhile, and it was an improvement.  It was progress.  But improvement and progress don’t mean better, do they?  Ok, I admit that improvement probably has some form of “better” in the definition, but really, an improvement is just a change that someone said is better.  As in it’s better to for someone, but not necessarily better for all.  And for the purpose of this rant I would like for you to think of the word “change” as meaning “a trade-off”, insomuch as any change for the “better” supplants a pervious way of living, which wasn’t necessarily wasn’t any worse overall than the new way.


Think of all the “new and improved” items you hated when you first saw them.  When they started using artificial sweeteners, you noticed that they made drinks taste worse, and then when the market followed suit, you got used to it and eventually began to praise it for being healthier.  (Side note: taste a throwback mountain dew vs. current mountain dew, you’ll see what I mean.)


The thing is, society has a really big blindspot.  It’s self.


This is where counter culture comes in in a big way.  Counter culture is the mirror or the minority opinion.  It’s generally dislike or disapproved of at first, because it’s not what we’re used to.  Hippies are a great example.  To this day some people hate hippies because culture demonized them while they were the counter culture.  But we got the message anyway, and now culture in general smokes pot sometimes and is so into the green movement that sometimes it’s sickening.  That’s why hippies aren’t counter culture anymore, we absorbed them, because hey, they had some cool ideas and now they don‘t seem so different from us.


Counter culture can also be an antithesis to culture itself, and not so much have beliefs as disbeliefs.  The punk movement.  Which, I have to admit, culture took the wrong message from (mostly). 


It’s because society is more prone to accept new idea than to reject old ones.  Which mean society is blindly picking up traits, without properly evaluating them.  We have some innate need to keep up with the Jones’ now, and we want progress, improvement, change, and we sometimes forget to even objectively see if it’s really better.


And, yes, improvement does, pretty much always, make something better, but generally it makes something a little worse too.  This is why I say change is a trade off.  I started to question what we’ve traded away for progress.  And while this rant is about to get  kind of negative, I realize that most of the changes I am about to berate, are in fact “positive”.  I just want you to become aware that they are negative as well, and it is your responsibility to decide whether you are willing to make that trade off.


Let’s go way back.  Start at the beginning.  Religion.  Religion seems to be an innate response to fear of the unknown, which particularly plagues mankind.  Well, the invention of religion (and how innate of a defense mechanism is would seem to be) was a trade off against truth and ultimately, science.  Religion is the first epoch, the first meme, the first trappings of culture.  So it makes sense that the counter culture for much of our humble beginnings as a species consisted of heretics and atheists (though I actually believe that atheism is largely a “modern” phenomena).


Now, generally heretics were religious themselves, they just didn’t believe what the mainstream believed, and they were either more strict, less strict or just purely different.  99.9% of heretics did not worship the devil.  In fact, almost all of them believed in “God” though in a different way than mainstream culture.


In fact, that type of profile fits almost every counter culture before the last century.  Just a single modest difference, a single improvement, a single change.  They become a test group for this new idea, new way of living.


Let’s look at another big early epoch, bartering.  Bartering meant that people could specialize and market talents and still have a little bit of everything.  It meant that people no longer had to be jack of all trades to achieve that goal.  And it made a lot of sense to us, and we adopted it pretty quickly.  And specialization also meant things got better in quality. 


This supplanted communal living, where basically the same thing was done, only for free.  There’s a town doctor, town farmers, etc.  Everyone had everything they needed.  And in a sense, even those communities bartered, they just didn’t notice it, or at least, keep tabs on it.  Sure, you may grow the whole town’s corn for free, but when you need a doctor, you don’t have to worry about a bill, and when you need someone to look after the kids, you didn’t have to hire a nanny.  It’s like they all paid in advance.  But with bartering there is a difference, and that is the concepts of “fairness” and “value”.


Say you were the farmer above, and you never went to the doctor, you wouldn’t give him any corn.  And you could get more of anything you liked, say apples, by trading more corn to the guy growing apples, instead of a more necessity based system.  Also, if the value of corn went up for some reason, you now had more trading power.  This was the birth of “rich” and “poor”.  Also, greed, jealously etc.  It was that paradigm shift that was basically, in my view, Pandora’s box (though that concept is incrementally true of all change).


Currency, and its fueling for greed, and focus on the individual over the group, led to people using it to gain power, build thrones, and subjugate the poor, because a certain respect for the masses was lost.  This led to business, industry, corporations, all created to accumulate money, and make people think that they were making the right decision to buy into this idea because it fueled progress.


At some point, change itself became marketable, and whereas cultural evolution was relatively docile in the past, when there were fewer counter- groups and new ideas, and time was allowed for their open examination before they were accepted.  Also, somehow we got into the mindset that change made things inherently better.


Around the turning point came Henry Ford, and the assembly line.  This is a good example of a single specific culture, and how it was changed by a small idea, so small even, that while it is similar to the idea of counter culture, it is often not defined as such.   Anyway, the assembly line was change, and it was very good for Ford, and beneficial to the consumer as well, so it was quickly adopted by the car industry, and in time industry in general.  The thing is, the assembly line and the trappings of which that are now ever present in the job world, were very bad for the worker.  Which culture at large failed to notice for a long time, because by the time the factory worker came out of the minority, it was too late, the trend was now established and there was no way the factory owner would let it go.


Until counter culture stepped in to soften the blow in the form of unions.  Which, unfortunately, never went to far as to remedy the fact that, we just shouldn’t be working like that.  And that’s been surprisingly well documented for as little as we’ve done about it.  And it’s not just an American problem, because as the world rushes to keep pace with us they are rushing to make our mistakes faster than they can rationally be evaluated.


There is also the concept of bills, or that everyone needs a loan (at least for a car or house) that evolved around the same time.  With so much of everything, we couldn’t help but buy in fast enough hoping that “putting a few things on credit” would just get us what we wanted, as soon as we wanted it and that would make us that much happier, right?  Actually, it f*****g bankrupted the country in ten years.


But we learned our lesson right?  About living beyond our means?  Nope, we bankrupted the whole damn economy, again.  Banks handed out loans on houses so fast when they were really selling them around the turn of the century, they actually bled themselves dry.  Which fucked the entire housing market, because the banks couldn’t afford to pay.


And economic collapse is only the really bad thing that can happen.  Bills, they’re just that bad.


And most of us are so far in debt (i.e. have so many bills) that we have to maintain a job or deal with our creditors.  This desperation to have a job makes us very, very easy to persuade.  And it’s all because they convinced us to let us owe them , pretty much for life, and with bills bought our slavery.  Because if a car and a house are now a need (or more recently an expensive college education, yes student loans are a b***h), and you can’t actually build either, then bills are a need, and a job becomes a need.


What I am saying is we shouldn’t seek employment so ravenously, and so irrationally.  Are you really comfortable selling your time to companies for convenience items?  Also, I’m pretty sure “work for us or die” is about the attitude of slave owners.


I mean to say, that the way the price on life is now, we have sold ourselves into slavery.


Think about it.


Let’s look at the evolution of “hard work for the man”.    Slaves were fed, and given shelter, and allowed rest and a minute amount of free time, all courtesy of the in the big white house.  Consider that your employer basically agrees to give you the money to pay for products, the car to get you the work, some degree of residence for you to sleep, and food.  Other that a few personal things.  We are given the illusion that newer is better, and we are fed crap that is seemingly made to fall apart.  So that you buy more, so that you need more money, so that you are willing to make stuff for them for money, so that they make money off of keeping you in perpetual debt.  Extra Credit pt 2: http://deoxy.org/endwork.htm


The problem is, convience is convenient, and we like the convenient.  It’s easier to just give in and buy everything than do it yourself.  And then, you’re trapped.  When, you allow them to dictate price, necessity, and salary, they will try to take everything they can and more.  Especially when it keeps them in a steady supply of mass market zombie slaves.


I’m not saying don’t get a job, I’m saying, don’t allow work to monopolize your time.  Don’t take on so much debt that you can’t easily pay it off (say within a month or so).  At least that’s my opinion.


Now, it’s good to note that cultural evolution depends on two factors (in my opinion) population and location, yet, it seems to evolve around a consistent path (or alternately, less evolved cultures are quick to adapt to the ways of more evolved ones.


So, there is actually room for stagnation, or at least there was before culture became so international.  (Note here, that I use the term “evolution” the same way I use “progress”) A good example of “stagnation” in modern time is the discovery of Native Americans, who were still largely using the communal system, and had very little concept of “fair trade”.  Also, religion had not, in their culture, evolved into a political juggernaut.  When Europeans entered the America’s we were the counter culture, and a very persuasive one at that.  And within a century, Native American culture had evolved more that it had since it’s inception.  Which, is not necessarily a good thing. 


The case of Native Americans is important because they are a good, “modern” representation of the perils of giving in to cultural change at a breakneck pace, i.e. we really fucked them over. 


How?  Why?  Because they were forced to trade their culture for ours, without being given the time to rationally examine what they were giving up in the process.  Which, I would say, is exactly what we’re doing now on a day to day basis.


And, as much as I was trying to leave this out, there’s the singularity theory, which actually plays into social evolution as much as technological.  (also, it’s a big concept I don’t feel like explaining in full, so here’s a handy linkhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technological_singularity)  The theory states that (let’s call it) progress is subject to exponential increase.  Also, many of the proponents of this theory believe that the singularity is near (also a book by Ray Kurzweil) due to the fact that if you plot the frequency of technological epochs on a timeline you’ll actually see that they are progressing on a very regular exponential curve.  Also, if you were to graph this change you will see that we are either in or about to enter the turning point of a J-curve.  Imagine, next year if things that have changed your life as much as the cell phone, or the internet, or mp3, or social media, start happening every year, them ever six months, then every day.  Some people would argue that just that has already happened.


Consider the argument above about cell phones, then consider if that magnitude of change happened year.  Everyday.


    Could you rationally consider each new trend?  You see, when companies control change, consumers get fucked.  And you’ll have to buy into trends  as they happen, to be even considered current.  It will become literally impossible to define what tomorrow will bring, and technology will be a big part of it. 


    Clearly, if we keep going down this path, we will end up slaves to big business.  And technology.  And as the latter half of the last century has proven, using technology rashly, without careful examination of what you are doing beforehand, leads to a lot of horrible roads.


    I don’t think it’s a bad thing.  We will be as gods, if we can survive.


    I just don’t think we’re ready to have that kind of power.


    We are far from being pacifists.   And even brief examination of our past and present says that we’ve gone down a lot of the long roads. 


    It’s not like I haven’t heard this story before, it was in the bible, in fact, revelations sounds very similar to very distinctly similar to a lot of things you hear in singularity theorists examinations of the possible outcomes of such an event.  I wonder, if they actually saw this coming, or if Ray Kurzweil had just read the bible before he wrote his book on the Heaven Theory. 


    I can’t really say.  But I do know this.


    The bible was written by heretics.

© 2010 The Darkest Silhouette

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register


it always stuns me when I run across something that no one has reviewed. I've been here a long time and I've read a lot of stuff. Poetry is the staple here, maybe because people have such short attention spans (I write poetry - I enjoy reading it. Not slamming the writing type) so they don't read longer works...who knows. But this was thought provoking. I agreed wholeheartedly with your comments on technology and business. I have often contemplated what "might have been" had we kept our hunter mindset and never transitioned into agrarian societies. There'd be a lot less of us, I believe - perhaps its an odd thought but those of us who would have survived would more than likely be vastly different than the average citizen. Society basically protects the slow, the weak, etc but we humans still lean toward aggression, competitiveness, it is the dichotomy of humanity that fascinates me. Great rant.

Posted 7 Years Ago

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


1 Review
Added on December 3, 2010
Last Updated on December 3, 2010


The Darkest Silhouette
The Darkest Silhouette

Burlington, NC

I just started writing seriously a year ago. My style has evolved and grown with me as I write more and more, so what ever happens to be my most recent work represents the best I have written, and it.. more..