Social Media and Conformity

Perhaps contrary to the conscious intentions of its creators, not since the reign of theocratic governments in the west has our civilization seen such a forceful urge towards conformity as that generated by the many-screened internet.

The voices of other people are with us always, if not being funneled directly into our ears, then simulated by our minds, who so familiar with the voices of the crowd, can simulate them easily and without conscious effort. The empty, quiet room is a thing of the past. Like our prehistoric ancestors, the tribe is with us forever, in our beds, on our hunts, around the fire, and always chattering within our heads.

Solitude is our greatest shame, though it is half-forgotten and we often mistake ourselves as having access to it. Our alone is not really alone at all; all things are now sharable commodities, with potential and actual measurements of value according to the judgment of our peers.

Every action is on a continuum of quality, determined by the values of others, who in turn have their values determined by our feedback to what they put forth for our consumption.

Sustained deviation from the group determined hierarchy of value in regards to actions, and thus, the thoughts preceding those actions, results in that most ancient form of punishment; exclusion and ostracization from the tribe. But this so rarely happens, for the hierarchy rewards us lovingly for obedience, and we are almost never exposed to that which falls outside of it.

Only minds that are both creative and socially deviant can generate actions outside of and not motivated by the bounds of its punishment-reward system, and few are they that can generate an effective sequence of such actions, towards the end of somewhat dissolving the accepted hierarchy. Those that do may be lauded, and the hierarchy expanded to accommodate them.

The many-screened social internet is the great tool of both the deviants and the crowd; for it gives the crowd a platform on which to proliferate and make the hierarchy concrete, and give clear rewards to those who obey its rules. Yet it also provides small islands for the deviants to stand on, and scream their shrill and sometimes beautiful song.

Society’s Progress

Succesful systems are not necessarily characterized by efficiency.

The best systems are those that are immune to catastrophic failure and allow for incremental improvements that compound across time.

Literate societies that pass down all accumulated scientific and ethical knowledge to future generations tend to be very successful.

We are the beneficiaries of such a system, and we are complicit in its decline insofar as we do not contribute to the process of improvement that makes our very existence possible.

Some people are simply apathetic, or outright malicious against the system that provides them with safety, food, water, and economic potential.

However, most people do hope for improvement. The issue is that they ignore history and believe improvements can be achieved via means and principles that are antithetical to what got the society to its current state of prosperity.

Or, because of bitterness and a pathological attachment to perverse ideology, they envision progress in terms of systems that have consistently failed in the past. Such people read history and ignore the thread of progress that runs from ancient Greece to the modern day.

What is this thread?

The belief in and the pursuit of objective truth, a limited representative government, and property rights.

The degree to which these are valued by the individuals in a society is the degree to which long-term scientific, economic, and moral progress can be achieved.

There is no surer sign of a civilization’s decline than the relegation of these values to the status of “radical”, “extreme”, or perhaps even worse, “boring”.

You do not make progress down a road by tossing out the engine of your car, or by dismantling it piece by piece. Perhaps some of those modifications will increase your speed in the short term, and give you an illusory pleasure. But by way of these changes, you will have created a system without incremental improvement, prone to sporadic catastrophe.

The Art of Nonconformity

You are never above a system you participate in.

Boycott what is disagreeable and engage fully with the rest.

The cog must escape the machine, or sacrifice himself for the sake of its destruction. To scoff and snarl at the machine is of no use. It is forgivable only to young men, at the time of their first realizations.

The sooner they understand what bravery is, the better. Bravery is striving to destroy what you despise, fostering and cultivating what you love, and never operating under principles that are not your own.

Beyond that, opinions are vanities. Sympathies unacted upon are vanities. Regrets are vanities outside their capacity to instruct us to better actions in the future. Cowardice is slicks words and a fine identity founded upon flexible principles.

Constitute yourself in accordance with observable instances of success in the natural world. Past failures are the signs of a mind out of sync with nature’s rules. Understand that punishments for mistakes often take years or generations to come, but they come.

The modern man has nothing so much to fear as his own tendency towards sloth and distraction.

If he wills himself capable of the commitment to toil half in measure with his peasant ancestors, he will find joy, for it will not be work in the field he does, but work in the mind, done not in order to take a single step on the treadmill of subsistence, but to improve the world at least somewhat in his own image, according to his own ideals of what is good and right and beautiful–

That is, if he does not sell his spine or let it erode unnoticed under the pressure of a social heard thousands of times more powerful than that of his ancestors. They exert force upon him through almost every aspect of his upbringing, if his parents be unexceptional. They educate him on books written in summary of their common consensus and confine him to some small corner of the globe where he may remain small and uninvolved with larger affairs.

Whether he is the greatest metropolis or the smallest cul de sac, this is the feeling, this is the message; you are not smart enough, you are not great enough. Stay where you are and don’t get caught climbing towards truth. Climb towards money if you wish, or status, or fame, even power so long as you fill a position that was already filled, and maintain the hulking culture as it steers towards the uncertain future.

They do not tell him the truth, the all too obvious truth; that he will be loved if he strives, loved so completely it cannot be imagined, perhaps by the world, but at the very least by himself. They do not tell him his only option is to climb up the very rungs they said were forbidden.

It is either fall into a poison well, into a life fabricated with the discarded pieces of norms no one ever liked or consciously agreed upon, or to climb as high as he can, as long as he can, with the thought in mind that even that strain will be better than the slow death of a life lived in defeat, in response to the powers that very deep down wanted him to climb, when all was said and done.

Escaping Failure

Why do people tolerate conditions that to an outside observer appear torturous and unbearable?

Because it usually takes a long time for things to go from good to average to terrible. The loosening of standards, the growing rarity of success, all stack up so slowly that we often find ourselves in a living hell with no idea as to how we got there, and no clear memory of when it all changed.

Perhaps this is why quicksand exists in our minds as an archetypal fear. Quicksand is that which kills you so slowly that you don’t notice until your head is nearly below ground.

No wonder standards, principles, and consistent strategies are the weapons by which failure and stagnation can be fought off.

Motivation, inspiration, and passion are too weak and unreliable a resource to be used in continuous personal growth. They are nowhere to be found when you need them most, and often lead us into self-aggrandizements and prideful displays of self-perceived talent.

Inspiration is what may propel us to create principles sufficient to change the course of our life. But it in itself is not enough. Motivation may be enough to get us up off the couch the first time, but it likely won’t be there the second or the third, or the other inestimable times we might need motivation if we are to take consistent proper action.

Emotion is the water that turns the solid ground to quicksand. Principles and strategies are the rope which we have either spun ourselves, or has been offered by a mentor. But with no rope, we are doomed to sink.