This world of ours is in shambles! No surprise there, though, as "out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."
I'm a profoundly concerned sceptic - if not an outright pessimist - about the future of the human species on the third rock from the sun. We are getting it wrong - and for all the wrong reasons, as an added insult to injury.
It makes me wonder whether we are, evolution-wise, hard-wired for (self)destruction - and beyond repair?
We are killing our own species, slaughtering non-human animals (a "mere" 70 billion in factory farming each year), and suffocating our home, Earth. To what end?
Do you remember the scene from the 1982 John Carpenter's The Thing where Dr Blair runs a computer simulation? According to it, the alien intruder would take over the world in 27k hours - some three years.
"Luckily," we aren't so efficient as a parasite. It will take much more time before, e.g., the Amazon rainforest is cleared for logging (yes, some people just need to have things made of rare trees and transported thousands of kilometres); for smelting charcoal (you are right on track if you wonder whether the steel in your belongings is tainted), and, of course, for beef (yeppers, people still believe they must ingest toxic flesh to get their proteins right).
But than again, steady does it...
Morphing the fundamental question from the meaning on life post: how to find virtue in an otherwise virtueless world?
"It's the economy, stupid!" Sure it is. And the illness a specific economic system brings about with it: affluenza.
It is money versus ethics. Things against virtue. Ho-hum, what gives, couldn't care less relative to deep engagement. It is a struggle to hammer the message: "less is more!"
I just feel it's a Sisyphean rather than a Herculean task...
Yet, like in Albert Camus' The Plague, while the world around us might be dying, some are doing their thing, regardless of the absurdity we are entrenched in (check the above blog entry for more details).
It depends. One will say, "greed is good." And it is - for them and all who cater to their needs. Others will say, "frugality is good." And it certainly isn't - for the former.
"You will know them by their fruits." That we already do - and it doesn't help a lot because as they sow, we reap - the negatives of affluenza. Among other things, all those glitches the late Mark Fisher dissected in his Capitalist Realism.
Maybe he was right when saying it's easier to imagine the crack of doom than capitalism's end. While writing this post in late-July 2022, the outlook for the global economy is overshadowed by inflation. There is a lot of finger-pointing (supply chains, putler's aggression on Ukraine, corporate gluttony). Still, I fail to notice a surge of blaming the main culprit: how the dominating system hijacked our relations - with ourselves, others, things we own, nature, etc. You can bet your shorts the well-off are harvesting the inflation lettuce like there was no tomorrow. Except there is - for them. Higher on the hills and deeper behind guarded gates.
Name it as you will: frugality, minimalism, sustainability. At its core, it's a belief that the less you have, the more the likelihood you can become a better person (in a philosophical meaning of that word).
Be vigilant and aware that "the market" won't supply the questions one ought to address. That is one of its essential perfidies. Its evil mind will, however, prompt answers. Amidst the push from combustion engines to electric drives for vehicles, it won't ask you if you need a car in the first place. But it will be super happy to sugar-coat your consciousness by patting you on the shoulder for going for the "green" purchase - as long as you make the buy, pay the electricity bill, head to the authorised grease monkey...
It reminds me of the discussion about bicycles ruining the economy. They are cheaper in, if you will, CAPEX and OPEX. Don't need fuel other than the food you ingest (in all probability, healthier than the highly refined stuff drive-through addicts hoe in with no remorse). Bikes can last for ages (and you can mend them yourself to a large degree). Make you fitter (Big Pharma hates that). Require biking lanes instead of motor- and highways. All in all, a genuine devil's contraption that decimates the GDP. Better still, walking is even worse...
But neither biking nor trekking will give the opportunity to show off how big of an affluenza case one is. The other day, a guy was going through an upsetment on LinkedIn that he has an old car. He fears others may mock him on that basis, so he parks a few blocks ahead of the meeting place... And that he wants a spanking new one of another brand but already poured wagon-loads of money into that banger because he's got an inclination for attaching himself to things (and people, too, he prudently added).
What that poor guy lacked was embracing "the subtle art of not giving a f*ck" and saying good riddance to bad rubbish by unburdening himself from car ownership. I did so many years ago and count it as a meaningful achievement.
Don't get me wrong: money is important. It gets things done: aids charities and people of goodwill in helping others, especially those disfranchised (human and non-human); conserves, depollutes and expands nature; pays artists for their hard work; buys the things we actually need from ethical companies; and so on and so forth.
Money can give happiness - if put to the right use. A knob-shaped rocket that takes billionaires to the orbit - burning, well, a rocket-load of fossil fuel during its 'rise' - is happiness of the few at the expense of all the others and the environment.
There is no value in money other than its potential to make this magnetic clump of rock and water a wee bit less the worst of all possible worlds.
Perhaps our civilisation will perish - but looking up, you will at least have the confidence you didn't propel that asteroid that is increasingly closing on us.
Buy less, spend better. Virtue ethics in a nutshell.