Thursday 6 November 2014

Modern culture is trying to waste your life!


This is no joke. At every level and in every way, the strong trend has been to encourage and praise people for putting-off the real things of life, and expending ever more years in 'preparing' for... life.

(And then to retire from life as soon as possible!)


Most obviously this applies in formal education and job training. The minimum school leaving age goes up and up, the average school leaving age goes up even-faster; the proportion of people at college is vast and still increasing - the length of time they spend at college, accumulating 'qualifications', is also high and rising.

When, eventually, formal education finishes people spend longer and longer periods getting even more training for jobs. By the time you 'qualify' you will be well onto the down-slope...


(I have known many scientists who spent fifteen years gathering qualifications and experience to do 'their own' research: PhD, years and years of post-docs, moving here and their, pretending enthusiasm for what bored them - but when they were finally (late thirties) appointed to a permanent position, they had either forgotten what science was; or else discovered that they were never supposed to do their own research into what fascinated them - but do whatever 'other people' currently decided ought to be funded. I have known doctors who have done two undergraduate degrees, a doctorate, and more or more time training and training to become some kind of specialized surgeon perhaps - studying and working all the hours God sent, moving around the country, around the world, rootless - and when they were eventually appointed to the job of their dreams in their late thirties... discovered didn't like it and quit.)


In personal life, there is a very strong social ethic to put-off getting married, and to put-off having children - it is regarded as bizarre and almost wicked for a middle class or upper class woman to marry and have a family at age twenty; for men to want to marry at this age is regarded as just insane (or extremely low status).


The idea that we ought to get-on-with the important things of life, is something that hardly comes up - but then, of course, for modern culture the 'important things' are actually what we are supposed to do when putting-off the real things - high living, partying, travel, getting drunk, experiencing multiple friendships and love affairs, gathering sexual experiences, exercising and body-building, sky-diving and bungee-jumping...

That is the Ideal Life, in a secular society - and what a miserable, shallow, corrupting, worthless thing it is. (I speak from experience - as a chronic putter-offer.)

Think about the real motivations of the people who actually want that stuff for you and for your loved ones!


Don't be fooled! Don't put-off life, and put-off life, in order to to prepare for life!

Get-on-with what is really important (and if you don't know what is really important, get-on with finding-out) -  

Get-on-with it! ... not impatiently, nor desperately, but as soon as you reasonably can!



josh said...

Amen brother. Sometimes I think I would have wasted my entire life were it not for the sanity of my wife. I have an older brother who is still as adolescent and I don't know how to help him. I say this kind of thing to my students quite frequently, but its just blowing against the wind.

Bruce Charlton said...

@josh - When I reflect that millions upon millions of people know this stuff for a fact, from experience - it makes me realize that the propaganda to waste life is purposively evil - sometimes from a petty and spiteful wish to see others make the same mistakes we did (Schadenfreude); sometimes from the more deeply wicked pride in refusing to admit that we ourselves have erred badly.

Samson J. said...

partying, travel, getting drunk, experiencing multiple friendships and love affairs, gathering sexual experiences

I was in the UK again recently, and although overall I had a great time, there was one night where we went "out on the town" in London, and I came away rather horrified - I mean that icy, empty horror of nihilism - by what I experienced.

However, I did get to visit Avebury! :)

Bruce Charlton said...

@SJ - If your soul is still alive and remains in contact with reality then you will necessarily be horrified by the horrible - sadly many souls are dead, or cut off, and have lost that capacity.

Adam G. said...

This is why the moderns spend childhood trying to be adults and adulthood putting off growing-up. Either way, you never get to embrace who you are where you are.

ajb said...

Homeschooling seems one trend against the idea of more and more (standard) schooling. It seems common for homeschoolers to start businesses in their teens, for example, and more generally, to be more likely to do important things at younger ages.

I am always bemused by those who think it's important to spend 13 years in standard schooling, only to graduate with no marketable skills. 13 years! It's actually not very hard to get enough specialized knowledge and know-how to start making a good amount of money - maybe two years, say. Yet, that's not the worst of it - many spend 17 years and don't have any specialized skills they can use to make money. Instead, they become baristas at coffee shops, and so on.

Bruce Charlton said...

@ajb - Indeed. And yet the onus of proof is on those who challenge the need for ever more education with ever less relevance to anything.

Until around the time I wrote this

I accepted economic analysis which supposedly showed that each extra year of formal education caused an incremental increase in salary - I was incredulous to discover that these studies had not controlled for between individual differences in intelligence, personality or social class. Once such things are controlled for it seems to be very difficult to demonstrate any significant effect of extra education beyond a fairly basic level - or indeed differences between one school or college and another.

But the really extraordinary thing is how few such studies are done - although they are trivially easy to do. Highly suspicious...

Anonymous said...

Nice piece! I have felt for a long time that Education (which was my job), has become an "industry" - especially university education. It's just another consumer product churning out degrees by the dozen - so called status jobs, well paid if you can get one that draws to you personal possessions. And maybe fame! Scientists, Phd's, etc two a penny - another consumer product. Filling our "emptiness".

I have just watched this video - you might know it. It was a worthwhile hour.

AlexT said...

Just finished reading the 'replacing education with psychometrics' article. First of all, it's brilliant. Second, could you expand a bit more on the educational system that you are a product of? Is that basically what you would like to see a return to?

Ben said...

I would advise avoiding the video posted above. It is secular.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex: My education suited me pretty well (although the world for which it was designed had mostly disappeared before I got through); but was far too much for most people - at every stage, except the earliest, there were far too many people who should not have been there, and who tended (more or less) to prevent the real thing from happening.

The education system as it is now is by-so-far too big, that it has become impossible to debate the subject: for instance, if 90 percent of colleges and universities closed, there would still be *far* too many.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alex - PS: if you want to know my outline CV - it is here:

knifecatcher said...

... playing video games, watching sports instead of playing sports.