Monday, August 6, 2012

The Common Man


Why is the common man so oblivious to his own emotions, his own thoughts... His own existence and beliefs? I have always pondered similar questions. I have asked myself how I could not find the value in valuable possessions, how I never saw joy in entertainment, or how I never saw any interest in celebrities or in sports. I found myself to be different from the others all throughout my life. Whether a possible genetic trait or whether it was a simple matter of influence from my father that I developed at a very young age, I'm not sure.

How, my question goes then, am I so different? In such cases I could list many traits about myself that might answer the question without giving me any real insight as to not how but why I am so different. I am not familiar with advanced neurological or psychological analysis or methods, if you could call it that, so in order to gain insight into my unique qualities I looked into the minds of others.

From a very young age (eleven) I began systematically forming experiments and questions to ask random peers. I first formed hypotheses as to why people acted as they did and the more I thought, the quicker I learned. I rediscovered the concept of Socratic Irony without formally reading about it and although I was all too knowledgeable about society I began to distance myself from people, something I would later regret, and engage in Socratic Irony rather than engage in social activities.

I pretended to be completely ignorant about social structure in a successful attempt to motivate people to think about their behavior by asking them questions about society or social behavior and create one of three scenarios. 1) The person asked with the thought provoking question finds an irrationality or contradiction or perhaps a fear hidden in their behavior and yells at me angrily telling me it is an inappropriate question. 2) They find themselves at a crossroad with themselves regarding their beliefs and they themselves figure out things regarding their inner state through these questions as I ask them. Or 3) They provide a superficial answer that although is irrational is the most commonly practiced (and responded) answer.

I began to understand people. I knew how they thought, what they thought, why they thought about it. But it is only now that I ponder a very specific question. Why do people love to consume but hate to think? I see it as a rather big jump to a very different but not unrelated question. I will start to answer that question by defining consuming and accordingly, analysis.

Consuming in this case is the act of one of three: Reading and interacting in near content-deprived memes or trends, if you will. A major instance of such consumption would be Facebook, where most people (this statement is based on first hand experience and empirical evidence) engage in mindless posts and comments if simply to take up the time or perhaps because it is a popular trend like posting pictures of cute 'pups' or what it known as Facebook likes. Another major instance of this might be religion, but that is a controversial and very fragile and touchy subject.

Another form of consumption is physical consumption. This is a mainly feminine aspect of consumerism but applies to men as well in different circumstances. This form of consumption involves buying physical goods such as clothes or perhaps a service like a nail painting at a salon. This aspect of consumerism is often associated with the social necessity of showing off to friends or keeping up with the latest trends or sometimes even with the psychological joy of buying and having possessions.

The third form of consumption is perhaps the most psychologically basic and influencing. Giving in to whatever the media tells you or rather, spoon feeds you in order to not go through through the psychological process of thinking and to a greater extent, introspection. Though it may sound a little straightforward, I do believe that is the case in at least, the U.S. Though this is not a political/sociopolitical essay, I find it a rather explanatory side note that I conducted a survey which showed that people who weren't sociologically involved or rather, at least familiar with the concept of media corruption and mass hypnosis (the phrase I use for the concept that the media companies purposefully try to 'stupidify' people by spamming them with consumer opportunities) were far more oblivious to life in general and often looked upon learning as a chore. Back to the subject at hand, however, the third form of consumption is the most powerful and influencing of the three as it blocks the ability of critical thinking by getting the mind used to mere consumption and prejudice and the view that introspection is a difficult (which indeed it is difficult) and meaningless task.

Critical thinking is what drives the interest to learn and perhaps could be called the basis of intellectualism as a whole. This is the reason why I ask the question: Why do people love to consume but hate to think? I believe that in my analysis of the three (main) types of consumerism I answered part of that question. To complete my answer, I will describe a possible scenario that is likely not the main course of mental and emotional growth in my generation but does fit what I have seen in my peers and friends.

Sapios (a play on words in Latin for wise) has just been born. The year is 1997 and his parents are rushing over something called the Internet. Soon they realize that unlike how they learned in their generation, Sapios is going to be able to learn anything at all right from the PC! Sapios is three now and his parents are very happy and excited. He sees them bring in a big rectangular box with buttons on it. They spend a lot of time on it and they start showing him how to use it too. He's amazed that he can play games on a screen with buttons. This behavior progresses until 2008. He's eleven and loves video games and TV. He's not doing any real thinking outside of school but who can blame him? He's ten and besides, TV is 'more fun than school'! Sapios' parents are very spiritual and tell themselves that they will start to teach him critical thinking and then philosophy and science. But suddenly, this thing called the Iphone comes out. Sapios pleads his parents to buy it for him and eventually, they do. His friends all have Facebook, so he think he should too. Then Sapios learns about all these games and fads on the Internet and he begins to start thinking less and consuming more. Sapios is twelve when his parents start making him introspect. The subject doesn't interest Sapios. It's boring and it's LEARNING. Better to hang out. Sapios decides he will skip the lecture today and go to smoothie place with his friends and his new crush, Elizabeth.

Sapios' parents are distraught. They can't get him to talk to them, to trust them or to do what they say. They see rebellion but are surprised. What did they do wrong? They always gave Sapios what he wanted, trusted and respected him and his space. This is more or less the scenario (albeit most parents are not spiritual but would like you all the same to study) that I see with frequency. It is in this manner (at least that's how the theory goes) that people are brought into the media system and the Buddhist American concept of "the wheel of consumerism". It is a joke, but all the same, it is how my generation's story goes.

To conclude everything, you should always be aware of what it is your studying or posting and perhaps make a change of pace and introspect for a while. It'll clear your mind and help you understand many things.

Your friend and teen philosopher, Alejandro Rocha