Monday, 27 April 2015

Demotivation, Demotivation, Demotivation!

The biggest and most obvious problem in modern human psychology is the near total lack of steady, long-term, positive motivation. En masse, modern Western Man has no idea what his life is for, what he is trying to do overall, and lacks any strong reason to do anything in particular. Secularism has made everything a matter of unaligned, subjective, personal convictions or uncertainties.

The characteristic modern demand is that "Something Should Be Done!" Ask why that particular something is a good idea, or ought to be done, and there are plenty of superficially-plausible answers- indeed there are literally millions of such answers for millions of mutually-antagonistic things all of which "should" be done.

But ask who exactly is going to do them, who is motivated to do them - despite that whoever does it will immediately suffer personal disadvantages, and you get a blank.

Hence the pattern of bureaucratic democracy. The requirement  that 'THEY should do something about it", combined with complete uncertainty about who THEY are and why we should suppose that THEY would be motivated really to solve problems; rather than, for instance, merely taking the money then utterly failing to solve - or worsening - the problems; which officials term 'addressing the issues'.

Until people, in their own lives, actually have and will live by steady, long-term and positive motivations; then nothing significantly constructive will be done - nothing at all. And unless these personal motivations are aligned, then these motivations will merely sabotage one another- unless these motivations have a common basis, and therefore an intrinsic alignment.

I think it is impossible, even in theory, for a motivational system to be applied top-down to this mutually-destructive chaos of complex, conflicting and ever-changing demands. People who lack common motivation cannot be controlled except negatively - they can be dispersed, or briefly stampeded - but they cannot be made to work together in long-term projects that must overcome short term hardships.  

It therefore seems that the first requirement is for individuals to find genuine, visceral, effective motivation; and then - by reflection on what actually works in their own lives, felt-motivation - to discover ways of scaling-up enough of this subjective motivation to a societal level such that there is overall coherence between enough individuals.

Perhaps this is the primary task for Modern Man - to acknowledge and reflect upon his own personal deficiency of motivation; to stop supposing that the major problems can, will and should be solved by THEM; to refuse to accept their own state of alienation and negativity and to seek-out and find that which genuinely motivates in the way that makes a positive society at least possible

To find motivation Modern Man, as a first step, needs to give-up those secular, nihilistic, god-denying assumptions which guarantee (100 percent, lifetime, copper bottomed) that he personally will be demotivated: that whatever he wants or hopes or needs to do, will be undercut and destroyed by his own lack of motivation.

After this, answers will not be so hard to find.



Nicholas Fulford said...

People - by and large - are not motivated by abstract motivations, but by concrete ones. People react favourably in conditions in which there is risk or opportunity, and the effects of their actions and inactions are concrete and close to immediate. Delayed gratification is not something people are very good at, and with a plethora of choices that offer instant gratification, people become addicts. As you point out this is not conducive to motivation - other than to get one's next fix.

Density of population and a lack of connection to a well defined and small enough community is also a problem. One facet of this is that people often do not become engaged when faced with a crisis that faces someone right in front of them, because someone else will do that, be it an emergency services person, the state, et cetera.

So what is the solution to this?

Unfortunately it would require social restructuring so that people are members of small communities in which the effects of action and inaction are more immediate, and in which the good of the individual and the community are tightly bound to one another. A person's contribution or lack is then important in a concrete way, and this creates cohesion, purpose and meaning. Failure can mean endangerment if the circumstances and the role a person plays are critical within a particular circumstance. Examples include small isolated villages without access to many of the services we have come to rely upon in our modern societies. Fishing villages on the southern coast of Newfoundland - such few as still exist - provide an example. The sea is unforgiving, people historically fished, and a village had to be in large measure self-sustaining. This required that all people participate. No room for slackers or bad behaviour was permitted, and the community would take an active role in policing its members. Yes there could be problems for outliers, and hence genius would not have the fertile ground that requires reserves to allow genius the opportunity to germinate. On the other hand, people were connected and supported and had a meaningful role or roles within the community. Not addressing a problem was not an option, because problems could have existential consequences.

Our modern society abstracts and dissolves the meaning that is based upon cohesive small communities. Limitation and lack of reserves do not exist in the same way, and there is no sense that failure to assist a person in the community will have any consequences. Apathy, neglect and a shallow desire for creature comforts and induced states as a substitute for meaning occupy the vacuum, but fail to satisfy. This is decadence on an individual, social and species level. It is not unlike "Mouse Utopia", and it is distinctly unhealthy for all involved.

Bruce Charlton said...

@NF - I agree with the observations, adding that the rulers(media-bureaucracy) have semi-purposively acted against even the possibility of local levels of organization ('civil society') and continue to do so. This works by 'capturing' small organizations via what start out as subsidies but end up as co-opted dependence, by strangling everything in expensive, soul-sapping 'red tape' (such that only salaried professionals can be bothered to negotiate it), and by search and destroy media/ bureaucracy operations against ideological enemies/ effective opposition.

The only survivors seem (at present) to be those who have coalesced around an opt-out religion. The decline in civil society in the UK over the past 40 years has been astonishing in its thoroughness - all powerful and large groups have been utterly absorbed into the state apparatus (churches, medical and legal professions, the schools and universities, the trades unions and cooperative societies, charities, the clubs and general interest and hobby societies...).

What has replaced them is mostly more and ever more of the mass media: wholesale passive consumption and shallow, pseudo-social interactions.