Sunday, October 23, 2005

An observation

Certain aspects of society today are in a state of decay. The purpose of an economy should be to facilitate society’s ability to meet the natural demands of the people. However, rather than serving the people in this way, in modern society the people have been made to serve the economy. Due to the constant pressure to maximize the profits of an industry, modern society produces within people a need to relax and escape from the compulsory activities of the work day. This need creates within the commercial market a high demand for mindless activities, as is evident from the kinds of movies that continue to be popular, the amount of time spent watching TV, and the continuous consumption of the newest products, despite their being at best minimally better than the products people already possess. This demand for mindless activity requires mindless workers to meet it, because no truly sane person would spend their life working to meet the trivial needs of others (or would do so only when no other ways of earning a living were available). Thus a large part of our economy requires the systematic training of workers who, while skilled in producing certain goods and services, will not consider the social benefit of their work and will be eager to consume similar goods and services during their free time. Such people therefore work in order to fill a role in the economy, rather than a needed role in society.

In order to meet this vast need in our economy, the Western system of “education,” if it can still be called that, has acquired the chief goal of assigning an economic value to every citizen, according to how well he or she can fill a certain role in the economy. This goal is met through the system of recording the grades of each student. These records will be used to determine what university a student gets into, and then their records at university will be used to determine what job they get. In this way, the goal of the modern system of education is no longer to educate, but rather to train individuals to fill certain roles in the economy.

Undoubtedly much good has come out of the modern economy. The modern economy has provided a reliable source of income to a drastically higher percentage of the population than at any other time in human history, while requiring them to spend less time working at their job than in times past. What, then, could possibly be wrong with the system as it is now? Presumably, as technology continues to improve, standard of living should continue to increase and the work day could be made even shorter. As people have more free time to spend, they will theoretically be better able to pursue his natural drives and explore what it is to be alive. However, it is my claim that such an assumption is false. As long as people view their job as something they do only because they are required to, as long as the motivation for their work is something other than either the desire to fill a needed role in society or survival, people will spend nearly all their free time pursuing mindless activities.

This still leaves the question whether there is anything wrong with people spending all their time pursuing mindless activities. The 1932 Aldous Huxley novel Brave New World. Huxley creates a conceivably possible world in which all activity is mindless. Everyone seems pretty happy for the most part. One character in the society is unhappy but only because he is looked down upon by his fellow citizens due to his physical defects. He is an anomaly, by far the exception to the average citizen. Is there anything wrong with such a society? As Huxley did, I only know to leave this up to the reader to decide for him or her self. Perhaps we do have a clue though in the very way in which the society in Brave New World is set up. The society is by necessity set up in a way in which change for the better is not possible for both the society and the individual. In fact, any change at all would result in the disruption of the whole society. This stifles the drive to improve oneself, along with the drive to reach past any mindless activities and come to know other people as they are. Although society can attempt to cover up these drives through a constant barrage of other thoughts and activities, they can never be removed completely from mankind.

(Next post: my proposed solution)


  1. If the economy is such an integral part of society, perhaps it's not a bad thing that people "work in order to fill a role in the economy, rather than a needed role in society." Even examining that, who's to say whose role is what? A role in an economy I can understand (a job), however I lack a definition for a role in society (other than participant).

    You need to draw a clear parallel between economic value placed on students by society and the grades that they receive. I thought grades reflected how well one knew the subject material (playing dumb question kid).
    Also, you state that the goal of education has shifted to training rather than educating. Is it the role of the public school system to educate rather than train? It is run by the government and taxpaying dollars from people and in turn the economy.

    I look forward to you explaining how people can "be motivated" and happy at their jobs when they do in fact need them for survival. Not all jobs are fun or conducive to happiness, regardless of mentality one could argue.

  2. It would have been more clear if instead of "work in order to fill a role in the economy, rather than a needed role in society," I had said "work in order to fill a role in the economy, while NOT filling a needed role in society." My point is that since the needs being met by the mindless TV shows, movies, new-but not-in-any-way-better products, etc., are not natural desires of man, but are synthetic desires manufactured inside of us by social conditions. In other words, our desire for these things is an illusion that we are made to believe by the influence of society. People don't naturally want to live in a mindless way, but are made to believe that is what they want through the circumstances society imposes on them.

    Thanks for the input. I plan to touch on your other points in my next post.