How many among us are sure about our 'careers'? Doesn't it seem odd that in modern times, where we think we have answers to most problems, we are most clueless about our selves?
Never in the history of human civilisation have we been so privileged to be confused about our 'purpose'.
If you look at it from a certain high enough vantage, humanity looks like a drunk colony of ants. tittering around in uncertain directions - bumping into each other, getting lost even when around other people.
20th century would be seen as the time when these infant species won a lottery of hydrocarbons with which it fueled mindless orgy of consumption. 21st century would be the time when the species would be forced to 'grow up': To wake up with a hangover.
In that sense, 21st century humanity is really an 'early growth stage' civilisation. (borrowing from marketing jargon). We are far from maturity as a civilisation. We have no clue what humanity wants to do collectively. We are forever busy waging internecine skirmishes. We have no clue what we want individually. We are eternally malleable in our wants and desires.
Here's an example of our nascent state. We have digital connectedness, but we have yet to make that connectedness work to our advantage fully. Currently, we are turning technologies into weapons - either militarily (PRISM, drones and a thousand other things) or socially (facebook turning social networks into narrow echo chamber seething with jealousy) or economically (uber malevolently destroying existing taxi networks instead of enabling existing taxi networks).
Typically, chaos finds some order and order finds some chaos. Its the yin-yang of the universe. For 20th century humans, the organising energy was selfish accumulation of currency. And humanity reorganised itself around that principle, with the most selfish and extractive people at the center in charge of earth's resources. It was a welcome change from the earlier organising principle - religious violence, which saw astroturfing of cultures with mindless violence in the name of fictitious entities.
Every new organising principle leaves chaos in its wake as it reshuffles the lottery of beneficiaries. The major difference between the chaos of previous generation and the one we are experiencing now is that of lack of violence. A whole majority of our generation will be out of work in the coming decades without having been killed in a battle, in sickness or rendered incapacitated. This chaos is toxic in a whole different way.
I. Going-with-the-flowPeople tend to 'go with the flow'. That's natural. I find myself working in an advertising agency because I live in a newish capitalist society and I went with the flow. I question the flow, certainly. That is healthy. That is also almost all my content (or discontent) on this blog.
But the thing is - the flux is global now. There in no alternative wave to ride if this one goes bust. There is no other ways to organise ourselves unless we are willing to be brave. The system is global and hence roles for us to take are fairly set.
The variety is cosmetic - there might be a proliferation of 'careers' but they are all quite similar in their impact and routines. commute-push buttons-commute-consume.
The impact of our work is diffused across the globe. We feel useless and yet rewarded for seemingly irrelevant associations. (An activist gets punished economically even if he/she is more useful for the economy in the long run. whereas a paper pusher in a bank is rewarded with fat pay-cheque even if his/her work is trivial. The thing is, people who are in the system get rewarded, not the ones outside.)
II. Building alternatives
Well, this is for the brave among us.a. Why can't the organising principle be decentralised compassion? Developmental sector tries to do that on a small scale. Various small communes have done it over the course of last century. Why can't that be the central organising principle of global economy?
b. Why can't the organising principle be open ideas? An anti-capitalist stance essentially. Instead of walled innovations and litigative and predatory patent system, this system would grow with open sharing of ideas. Imagine uber but without the 40Bn worth of malevolence that is used to violently rip apart taxi networks across the world. An open source uber would instead be used to streamline taxi services across the globe for free.
c. Why can't the organising principle be ecological conservation? Or for the next few decades, overseeing the handover to a machine led world where humans have a role beyond sustenance. Maybe everyone becomes an explorers of the universe in a world run by machines.
We must be open to ideas and utopias. We need sci-fi fiction to open our eyes to possibilities of our world now.
III. The choice
So essentially it really is a simple choice. Are you brave enough to contribute in building an alternative? Or would you rather find prosperity in the current globalised system?
IV. The context: The infant civilisation