If you don’t, who will?
Doomscrolling places like /r/collapse brings an unexpected soothing relief that inches us, individually, towards nihilism. If the end is near, I need not lift a finger. Doomscrolling has a brother: fiction, the imagined, the make believe. A parallel reality where life is better. A welcome escape hatch. Trump supporters tried to turn back time, escaping to a whiter American era. Modern youths turn to comics, manga, and Instagram for a pleasant distraction. Both offer the release of responsibility because “there’s nothing I can do about it” “the situation is bigger than me”. Difficult times paired with expansive access to knowledge, both real and fake, make quitting all too attractive. After all, it is easier to take baby steps toward nihilism or fantasy than to voluntarily take on the brutal truth of our current state of affairs. But if you don’t, who will?
When a well understood game is broken either change the rules or play a different game.
Dysfunctional in our new normal. We know this because life appears to make sense when flipped upside down. The “lesser” educated degenerate gambler on /r/wallstreetbets/ living in his parent’s basement has the upper hand on the high brow educated Wall Street quant. The owner of the local corner store armed only with street smarts has more soundness of mind than the ivy league intelligence who lead of our country. How does this happen?
The gambler and the corner store owner are forced to stand closer to the buzzsaw of reality than the suits in the gleaming skyscrapers and capital buildings. Put another way, the actions of the gambler and corner store owner result in brutally honest feedback loops. Politicians decide based on statistics and figures inevitably ending in blurry inaccurate feedback loops. Worse yet, politicians are not held accountable for bad decisions. Everyday people do not have the luxury of probability and unaccountability to get through their day. We must make black and white decisions. The gambler may use statistics to choose when to push the chips into the center and go all in but the difference between the gambler and the politician is only one is forced to put skin in the game. We have to put something on the line unlike politicians who have the privilege of changing as the wind blows without consequence.
It is no wonder why people feel their world crumbling around them. There is a deep misalignment between what is necessary and what is happening. When people feel like the game of life is stacked against them, it is in our nature to look for an exit hatch and sadly nihilism or the imaginated offer an attractive compromise. The game of capitalism only works when people feel like it is fair, or fair enough, to make progress or win. When a well understood game is broken either change the rules or play a different game.
Be the corner store owner not the politician.
Free money is the surest path to hell. The groundwork was laid in 2020 via COVID stimulus packages and it is evolving into a monstrosity called UBI. No one in their right mind will deny free money if offered: “If I don’t take it someone else will”. And this is an accurate assessment. Politically it is the ultimate carrot to dangle to ensure election. Free money is also an indicator that we are close to the end of an era. So why am I being such a debbie downer? Because if we believe politicians are questionable as is for not having skin in the game, just wait until all your neighbors take on the same attitude. When everyone is corrupted by “free” money, who will knuckle up and do the hard things? Free money is a fantasy that is coming to life and makes all of us as weak and useless as our failed leaders. We will enjoy a fantastic debt jubilee where everything feels amazing. Like a junkie taking the greatest hit of his life before flatlining. There is nothing good about UBI as attractive as it sounds. Be the corner store owner not the politician.
Choose your next step wisely by respecting the fact your future self is approaching.
Life is infinite layers of complexity. From atoms to cells to organs to human beings and beyond. Viewing life in its’ entirety would leave us stupefied. Fortunately, the level where we operate is far more manageable. Few amongst us can explain in entirety how our iPhone or car works. What we do know is that when they work it’s all good. We need not examine every layer of life to intuitively understand that the complexity of life naturally forms hierarchies. All mankind is all equally bound to the law of gravity regardless of how rich or famous. The laws of nature supercede human laws. All around us, order is established through hierarchical rank, much of it invisible. With all this invisible complexity during incredibly chaotic times, how can we be expected to make good decisions? By treating your present move with the knowledge that the well being of your future self is on the line whether you like it or not.
We feel great comfort when the things that are “beyond us” or “bigger than us” seamlessly work: electricity, plumbing, gadgets, friendship groups, communities. We pray to various gods to ensure the “bigger system” “the man upstairs” favors us, or at a minimum does not curse us. The past 20 years have gone so swimmingly, relative to 2020, that perhaps the thing we all lost while basking in comfort is our capacity to deal with hardship. Who do we point the finger at when things go wrong? The man in the mirror or others? In a complex world it is incredibly easy to place the blame on others, especially the thing that represents a larger hierarchy to our own position — aka “the system” “the man”.
We learn to shirk responsibility in the same way we take on debt. Low up front costs to get what we want (but have not earned) followed by huge costs down the road. We punish our future selves and point the finger at these tricky bankers who are corrupt and take advantage of normal folk. Responsibility only works only if we believe we are bettering our future selves. When we ignore or give up on our future self, then FOMO and YOLO take root. And that is how an entire society spirals downward into doomscrolling. If tomorrow is a dangerous mystery that I do not have the will to face then I shall live for today. And that is a terrible place to be — without a future. Choose your next step wisely by respecting the fact your future self is approaching.
Keep playing the game for unpurchasable gain.
So how do we make the hard choice? We must volunteer. And that takes an incredible amount of heroism. Being forced into the hard choice involuntarily is the worst place to be — slavery or genocide. It’s not hard to imagine but we all look away because of the discomfort it brings. In our semi dystopian times, we all feel the undercurrent of a lurking transformation. It is uncomfortable because we all like how predictably comfortable the past now seems and are fearful about what an unknown future means. Do we look the other way or bury our head in the sand? Or will we stand up and rise to the occasion like our forefathers. We are all here because our forefathers were heroes in their own right. We are alive because our ancestors were the fittest survivors. They are encoded in your DNA, you are their ultimate product. Play the nihilist game and your story and theirs come to an end. Volunteer to make the right choice, the hard choice and you battle to keep the writing the story of your lineage.
Beyond the downward spiral that ends in hell, the reason to take up our lot in life and willingly face the beast at its ugliest is because it offers us the opportunity of a lifetime. We live in a world so dominated by what appears to be instant big money and overnight fame but taking on the beast gives you what can only be earned and cannot be purchased: even if you lose you win. The worst type of loser is the quitter. We’ve all been there. It never sits right and the shame never really fades. The best type of loser is the failure. That person went for it. And while the scars are no less painful, this pain makes you grow stronger with time. That is fundamentally what makes human beings so resilient, so antifragile. Taking calculated risks is encoded in our history. It’s what makes us who we are and forms the stories we will tell about ourselves. Those who make the right choice, the hard choice, the difficult choice come out ahead regardless of whether they win or lose. Keep playing the game for unpurchasable gain.