Yves here. We’ve long focused on the role of propaganda in creating the consent, or at least the appearance of consent, for policies that often serve very narrow interests. This post discusses a broader phenomenon, how businesses and governments try to foster more intense involvement while at the same time implementing programs that create disengagement and anomie.
One thing I find intriguing is the emphasis in the US on “happiness” which I see as an illusory goal. Happiness American style is giddiness or euphoria and is by nature a fleeting state. Contentment is more durable and more attainable, but being content is the opposite of the dissatisfaction, insecurity, and anxiety that is what drives most people to perform.
By William Davies, a Senior Lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London, where he is Director of the Political Economy Research Centre. His weblog is at www.potlatch.org.uk. Originally published at Alternet
The following is an excerpt from Davies’ new book The Happiness Industry: How the Governmen and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being (Verso Books, 2015)
Since the 1960s, Western economies have been afflicted by an acute problem in which they depend more and more on our psychological and emotional engagement (be it with work, with brands, with our own health and well-being) while finding it increasingly hard to sustain this. Forms of private disengagement, often manifest as depression and psychosomatic illnesses, do not only register in the suffering experienced by the individual; they are increasingly problematic for policy-makers and managers, becoming accounted for economically.
Yet evidence from social epidemiology paints a worrying picture of how unhappiness and depression are concentrated in highly unequal societies, with strongly materialist, competitive values. Workplaces put a growing emphasis on community and psychological commitment, but against longer-term economic trends towards atomization and insecurity. We have an economic model which mitigates against precisely the psychological attributes it depends upon.
In this more general and historical sense, then, governments and businesses ‘created the problems that they are now trying to solve.’ Happiness science has achieved the influence it has because it promises to provide the longed-for solution. First of all, happiness economists are able to put a monetary price on the problem of misery and alienation. The opinion-polling company Gallup, for example, has estimated that unhappiness of employees costs the US economy $500 billion a year in lost productivity, lost tax receipts and health-care costs. This allows our emotions and well-being to be brought within broader calculations of economic efficiency.Positive psychology and associated techniques then play a key role in helping to restore people’s energy and drive. The hope is that a fundamental flaw in our current political economy may be surmounted, without confronting any serious political–economic questions.
Psychology is very often how societies avoid looking in the mirror. The second structural reason for the surging interest in happiness is somewhat more disturbing, and concerns technology. Until relatively recently, most scientific attempts to know or manipulate how someone else was feeling occurred within formally identifiable institutions, such as psychology laboratories, hospitals, workplaces, focus groups, or some such. This is no longer the case. In July 2014, Facebook published an academic paper containing details of how it had successfully altered hundreds of thousands of its users’ moods, by manipulating their news feeds. There was an outcry that this had been done in a clandestine fashion. But as the dust settled, the anger turned to anxiety: would Facebook bother to publish such a paper in future, or just get on with the experiment anyway and keep the results to themselves?
Monitoring our mood and feelings is becoming a function of our physical environment. In 2014, British Airways trialled a ‘happiness blanket’, which represents passenger contentment through neural monitoring. As the passenger becomes more relaxed, the blanket turns from red to blue, indicating to the airline staff that they are being well looked after. A range of consumer technologies are now on the market for measuring and analyzing well-being, from wristwatches, to smartphones, to Vessyl, a ‘smart’ cup which monitors your liquid intake in terms of its health effects. One of the foundational neoliberal arguments in favor of the market was that it served as a vast sensory device, capturing millions of individual desires, opinions and values, and converting these into prices. It is possible that we are on the cusp of a new post-neoliberal era in which the market is no longer the primary tool for this capture of mass sentiment. Once happiness monitoring tools flood our everyday lives, other ways of quantifying feelings in real time are emerging that can extend even further into our lives than markets.
Concerns about privacy have traditionally seen it as something which needs to be balanced against security. But today, we have to confront the fact that a considerable amount of surveillance occurs to increase our health, happiness, satisfaction or sensory pleasures. Regardless of the motives behind this, if we believe that there are limits to how much of our lives should be expertly administered, then there must also be limits to how much psychological and physical positivity we should aim for. Any critique of ubiquitous surveillance must now include a critique of the maximization of well-being, even at the risk of being less healthy, happy and wealthy.
To understand these trends as historical and sociological does not in itself indicate how they might be resisted or averted. But it does have one great liberating benefit of diverting our critical attention outward upon the world, and not inward upon our feelings, brains or behavior. It is often said that depression is ‘anger turned inwards.’ In many ways, happiness science is ‘critique turned inwards’, despite all of the appeals by positive psychologists to ‘notice’ the world around us. The relentless fascination with quantities of subjective feeling can only possibly divert critical attention away from broader political and economic problems. Rather than seek to alter our feelings, now would be a good time to take what we’ve turned inwards, and attempt to direct it back out again. One way to start would be by turning a skeptical eye upon the history of happiness measurement itself.
This is rather disturbing, Huxley’s “Brave New World” does not seem so distant.
The way i see it, the world around is is a case of BNW overlaid 1984.
This in that if you conform you get the BNW scenario. But if you resist you get the 1984 treatment.
Perhaps you are right, a recent version of this is “The Fat Years” by Koonchung Chan.
“Workplaces put a growing emphasis on community and psychological commitment, but against longer-term economic trends towards atomization and insecurity.”
they want you to pretend you love the job. I’ve seen jobs that say they want teamwork, I’ve never worked at one that really does. And for every job that says they want “teamwork” there is one that says that want “a self-starter than needs no guidance” (more or less the opposite of teamwork!).
“opinion-polling company Gallup, for example, has estimated that unhappiness of employees costs the US economy $500 billion a year in lost productivity, lost tax receipts and health-care costs.”
well at least maybe they are finally being honest and know people take sick days not just when they are sick, but when they are sick of their jobs!
But I doubt they care, they want control, more than they want their employees to be happy.
“Positive psychology and associated techniques then play a key role in helping to restore people’s energy and drive.”
I can’t imagine it being widespread as compared to the use of anti-depressants for instance, which actually is widespread, when we look at widespread trends affecting people.
“if we believe that there are limits to how much of our lives should be expertly administered, then there must also be limits to how much psychological and physical positivity we should aim for. Any critique of ubiquitous surveillance must now include a critique of the maximization of well-being, even at the risk of being less healthy, happy and wealthy.”
perhaps if I believed society was brave new world constantly trying to make us happier all the time, I think the truth is harsher than that. Sometimes they just want to bust your head in. I don’t know if individuals trying to maximize well being think: oh what I need is some surveillance gadget.
“But it does have one great liberating benefit of diverting our critical attention outward upon the world, and not inward upon our feelings, brains or behavior.”
It might do society some good, it may or may not be liberating for the individual who might actually have problems with their feelings, brains, and behavior! It’s not necessarily liberating for the individual to turn all their personal problems and pain INTO politics especially when these AREN’T *directly* political – ie their problem isn’t unemployment or homelessness or something (and when people do turn personal problems into politics, it’s often not the politics one might prefer). And politics *itself* is mostly so alienated in this society anyway that involvement in most of it is not going to cure anyone (direct action type politics at least helps loneliness/anomie).
You ain’t on any team unless you wear the same jersey or baseball hat!
Employers want employees to be indebted as a potential means of recourse. The expectation of unfailing positivity works like Augustine’s concept of original sin to produce a similar sort of debt.
Interesting article. In the current political climate ‘well-being’ is just another propoganda tool. I don’t know what it is like in the states, but here in the UK the prime minister is certainly into ‘well being’. He is also responsible for a a large scale increase in food banks in the UK. The number of food banks went up from 3000 in 2005 to approx 900,000 in 2014 and the worst decrease in real income for over a century. Hard to find happiness when you are having to make choices between eating and heating whilst simultaneously maintaining your ‘happy’ face and your ‘enthusiastic’ voice for work.
I would say the USA is quite similar. The main difference (in my opinion) is that here in the states the process took decades, and it went much further and deeper. We’ve never had much of a social safety net to begin with, and now the business interests basically own their own politicians. Much in the same way a person owns a favorite lap dog.
‘What is happiness? It’s that second before you are looking for more happiness.’
Reminds me that recently the “pleasure rat” experiment was found to actually be miswired, and the part of the brain the rat was constantly stimulating was not the pleasure center, but the part driving foraging behavior.
Basically the core of the mammalian brain is foraging and reproduction, and everything from actual foraging to modern day shopping sprees stimulate the former.
Most if not all human behavior can be explained by what you just said only it manifests itself in the form of money.
No Money = You Die.
Lots of money = lots of reproducing or at least going through the motions ;-}
This technical trend is the foundation for the implementation of a “pre crime” social control regime. The late D. P. Moynihan is credited with coining the phrase, “defining deviancy down” back in the 1990s’. As the linked article shows, this served to legitimate harsher and more proactive policing techniques. The social philosophy for the “Totalitarian State” has been around for a long time. Now technology is catching up to the ‘promise’ of the Brave New World the New World Order has always wished for. Our consolation in all this is that the system is run by ordinary humans, prone to weaknesses and insanities. Magical thinking and boosterism may raise them up into the clouds, but reality will soon enough slap them back down to earth.
For “Defining Down Deviancy” see:
Thanks Ambrit: for the http string attached, most helpful in understanding why US legal systems are the way they are.
You are very welcome. Many of the commenters here add sources to bolster their arguments. The posters usually supply rich resources of supporting information. The persons running this site put in an awful lot of work in ensuring it runs smoothly and hews to high standards. This is an overall excellent site, (despite my presence.) Enjoy!
Well, calls to mind a couple things. For the dystopian future angle, calls to mind Lucas’ movie THX 1138. And then I read this article in the New York Times:
here is a quote: “If you have an Orwellian bent, you’ve probably already imagined the mischief you might do with these two hormones. You could surreptitiously make a potential investor more trusting or encourage a monogamous impulse in a partner who you suspect is cheating. All you need is aerosolized oxytocin or vasopressin, perhaps in a spiked air freshener or perfume. Kidding, of course, but you get the idea.” Kind of funny that the researchers think the people paying for these studies are interested in relationships between couples.
And then from the other angle, there’s got to be a million stories like mine – years ago, at a company that made a huge push for workplace collaboration. Meetings, workshops, the CEO walking around talking it up, and yet remuneration and job performance evaluation were done individually, so of course it was a disaster. My alternate theory was that it was a sort of mass implementation of the prisoner dilemma – the CEO being bored at that point in his life. Never figured that one out.
Yes to “THX 1138”, but also perhaps more like “Brazil.”
I think biogenetics is a field worthy of attention for reasons other than “infidelity.” There is an interesting analysis by Clare Birchall titled “Aesthetics of the Secret” in the current issue of New Formations. I think it ties into what Yves is writing about.
Isnt this just an effort to make us work harder and be rewarded non-monetarily? I’ve seen so many young smart people say they are ‘valued’ at their company or ‘ feel part of the team’ or ‘don’t make what they want but are doing something they like and makes them happy’. My answer has always been that your salary is how they value you and anything else is just silly. And I’ve been thoroughly criticized by many family for saying that.
We create our own happiness and self-worth. Looking to be happy by being a cog (or wanna-be cog) in the machine is doomed to failure. I’d write more but my boss is calling, no doubt, in an effort to make me happy and thank me for working on Sunday at 7.40am.
See the BBC documentary, “The Century of Self” to understand the rise of control via manipulating “self intetest”.
Ah yes, Adam Curtis. He has a range of documentaries out there that put the spotlight on various issues and how they came to be.
Most of the crap we deal with right now seems to be traced back to the waning days of empire and the years between the two world wars.
And much of it came out of fads and fanciful idealism.
He also does some blogging: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis
Thanks for the Adam Curtis link. There is lots more on the consent issue. I have some of his DVDs but hadnt seen this site before.
it’s unclear to me whether this post enhances our happiness or our misery.
I had the troubling thought it enhances both, with a probability distribution across the population of readers modeled as a normal distribution with mean of zero and variance equal to the crime rate.
Happiness is enhanced by recognition that truth is being revealed. Misery is enhanced at contemplating the nature and consequence of that truth. If the crime rate is high, the variance of individual reader reactions — from ecstasy to morbid despondency — will vary widely around an average of zero. Zero would be no change in happiness.
But all that does, if my math is correct, is get everybody back to where we all were before we read it. It makes you scratch your head in wonder.
Knowing about the Facebook study and how the private and public sectors partnered for these cognitive “science” studies I think it’s pseudo-science run amok. I feel, myself, feel bad for kids. I think there are studies on the perverse effects of these kinds of double-blind studies. What to do? Well, time, it is said heals but it sure hasn’t made the parties responsible accountable like we are holding our kids accountable in the name of “research.” Indeed… .
While we “pivot” to Asian markets we’ll see what comes of this and the lobbyists for big data and big pharm.
“What’s ironic is that Rajan’s and Bernanke’s fates as economic policy-makers are tied up in other ways, reaching back years. Kurt Vonnegut, in his novel Cat’s Cradle, wrote of the fictional religion Bokonism, which required of its adherents only belief. Vonnegut theorized that groups of people – dubbed a “karass” – would end up working toward a common purpose, unknown to themselves or each other, finding their lives intertwined without any knowledge of the goal they were working towards in common. The world’s central bankers have become this karass, meeting and separating and meeting again to solve the quandary of economic crises – without knowing, really, what they are doing, or how it will end.”
Happy Memorial Day!
Man, I really gotta pick me up some Wedel… does anyone know whether Shadow Elite includes any Vonnegut quotes?
I’d be more inclined to see central bankers as a “granfalloon” — a false karass, “a proud and meaningless association of human beings”.
Having worked in the private sector for a couple of larger multinationals, I would say that corporations only care about employee productivity and its impact on profit. A corporation is a totalitarian entity whose goal is to plant religious loyalty to the corporation for exploitation of employees.
All this lalalala about happiness is BS just like most things in the US.
The office workplace is now going through what the factory workplace went through before. Increased standardisation to enable quick and easy replacement of individual workers. The change is not pleasant and the ones suffering through have to cope with:
-lack of control of work combined with questionable guidelines.That creates uncertainty which leads to work being a stressor.
-lack of job-security, which leads to lack of food and shelter security which in turn leads to work being a stressor
-intense competition for jobs which leads to colleagues are no longer possible friends they are now competitors about the scarce resource of paid employment. Work again becomes a stressor.
The number of jobs paying a living wage are either:
-infinite. Some very serious people actually believe that this kind of infinity exists…
-finite. If the number is finite then a decision needs to be made about the finite good of paid employment. Winner take all employment while the rest suffer (can’t see any solidarity in this)? Or reduce the number of paid employment hours for employees to the benefit of the many and let the workaholics live the neoliberal dream of being self-employed (no legal limits on amount of hours of their life they spend on work)?
That posed a couple of questions.
What is a living wage? “Enough?”
Is there “enough to go around,” or are we humans incapable of Golden Ruling it, having out-reproduced our sustainable competences?
Why is the model “employment,” with all that implies, other than ‘because realistically — that inevitable trump argument — that’s the structure we got’?
Is humanity (as opposed to maybe the ‘successful’ few of us) actually just a Dead Man/Woman Walking?
Does Political Economics point to any possible macro or micro “policies” that can be forced from below, that might keep all the Young Urban Failures, and the lower orders below them, too, in “enough?” YUFfies, who’ve mostly displaced and vastly outnumber and have become the new Young Urban Professionals, remember them, who were previously going to “do well” as urged by their parents, who were going to rule the world, though thinking about it, the ones who gravitated to Goldman Sucks and the other Bankster lairs and the upper reaches of Monsanto and General Atomics and such, and staff and hope to rule their lobbying bribesters and other adherents and retainers in and out of the Cloak of Legitimacy that is “elected government,” sort of achieved “ownership society apotheosis,” so maybe the model if not universal was correct in its general form?).
Is the Soylent Corporation business model the inevitable endgame of all that’s cooking and shaking now?
Should I not worry about any of this stuff that makes me, with too much Boy Scout mythology and Presbyterian dogma on board, unhappy about all the stuff I read in places like NC?
embrace your unhappiness with open arms – it’s the only interesting thing there is
I think if you want colleagues to be friends you’d be far better off with a true blue collar job. That’s the sense I get. Something like construction. White collar mentality is cold, and lacks friendliness.
Working as much as we do definitely doesn’t make me happy. Share the work!
Worse,…….. in many professions such as accounting and other financial field positions colleagues are often looking for any opportunity to backstab their fellow employees in order to boost their own positions. Then those same people take that mentality back into their personal lives and more often than not end up alienating outside friends and close and extended family with their divisive and overly competitive win at all costs behavior. I have seen it happen over and over again amongst my circle and even in my own extended family, though not to me.
My take on the whole happiness ‘thing’: Stop naval gazing and over analyzing life and purpose and whether or not you are ‘happy’, and just figure out what makes your heart sing or time fly by. Then do that. It really isn’t hard……..
And, they want to sell you the Soma for profit, because they have made the free, natural alternative, weed, illegal.
Run far, far away from anyone who claims to be able to put a dollar value on your emotional well-being. We’re not dollar-signs, gawdammit!
Maybe not in our own minds or the minds of those we love, but the Master Narrative and Operating System have “us” pegged and measured and under control, right up to that certain point…
It’s another result of the commodification of all existence…we’re just “human resources” now, even our emotional lives are open for exploitation and strip-mining…first we start measuring “the economic efficiency” of our emotional states, then we manipulate emotional states to be more “economically efficient”…if that thought doesn’t send chills down your spine you need to see your osteologist, stat.
I keep a copy of Calvino’s description of the city of Zenobia hanging above my desk, lest I ever forget a word of the last paragraph —
“Now I shall tell of the city of Zenobia, which is wonderful in this fashion: though set on dry terrain it stands in high pilings, and the houses are of bamboo and zinc, with many platforms and balconies placed on stilts at various heights, crossing one another, linked by ladders and hanging sidewalks, surmounted by cone-roofed belvederes, barrels storing water, weather vanes, jutting pulleys, and fish poles, and cranes.
No one remembers what need or command or desire drove Zenobia’s founders to give their city this form, and so there is no telling whether it was satisfied by the city as we see it today, which has perhaps grown through successive superimpositions from the first, now undecipherable plan. But what is certain is that if you ask an inhabitant of Zenobia to describe his vision of a happy life, it is always a city like Zenobia that he imagines, with its pilings and its suspended stairways, a Zenobia perhaps quite different, a-flutter with banners and ribbons, but always derived by combining elements of that first model.
This said, it is pointless trying to decide whether Zenobia is to be classified among happy cities or among the unhappy. It makes no sense to divide cities into these two species, but rather into another two: those that through the years and the changes continue to give their form to desires, and those in which desires either erase the city or are erased by it.”
– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
In a world of fake happiness, being depressed is a revolutionary act.
I dunno diptherio. “In a world of fake happiness, being depressed is an evolutionary act,” would be a more accurate formulation.
Learning to be a real fake, now, that would be the act of one in the Vanguard of the Revolution. (One would be deserving of both the Medal of Lenin and the Presidential Medal of Freedom for that feat.)
There is a difference between depression and unhappiness. Most people who re unhappy may think they are depressed. They are not.
I myself had existential malaise for years, until my SO pointed out how very boring my existential malaise was.
Truth has no value. Meaning is recomposed into spectacle for sale.
That is the exact premise behind the novel “The Fat Years” mentioned above.
Diptherio: As far as I can see most Americans ARE depressed and cannot wait to tell you about it and what meds they are on. It seems a badge of honor along with bragging of one’s extreme ‘busyness’ these days. So I could hardly see being exactly like everyone else is any sort of ‘revolutionary act’. Instead it seems to me that a quiet peace and contentment without explanation or apology or need of the approbation of others would be far more revolutionary……..
Well revolutionary would be getting angry and then trying to change things obviously.
Depressed may be evolutionary as a response to a whole host of factors but as the impetus in depression is just to give up trying (often in a situation where trying isn’t getting anywhere but the emotional push to keep trying is still there). So the evolutionary based reasons would be: powerlessness, low status (stop trying to compete for status even), repeatedly banging one’s head against the metaphorical wall, isolation (ostracism) that may be part of it etc..
I can respect depression and not think depressed people must all become mr and miss positivity because society, without rationalizing it as in: anyone rational would be depressed afterall (not necessarily – though they would be concerned), depression is just so revolutionary, nothing more revolutionary than not getting out of bed all day because you feel so bad, etc..
I guess Yves is familar with:
We have one of those too. “Enough”. In a world of ambition, satisfaction is a revolutionary act.
“Contentment is more durable and more attainable, but being content is the opposite of the dissatisfaction, insecurity, and anxiety that is what drives most people to perform.” (Yves) It occurs to me that it’s also what drives people to consume, which is kind of the point of our (U.S.) society, right? (I’ve been thinking too much about Mad Men lately, sorry.)
It’s not like this is anything new. If the group isn’t generally all pointed in the same direction, then the people go in different directions. Religion is usually what serves to take the rough edges off the political realities.
If we really want to understand what is going on, it has to go much deeper than this.
For instance, western philosophy/understanding of reality is very object oriented and so we think of ourselves as individual beings moving through and thus against our context. While the eastern view is more context oriented and so the premise of individuality is much less distinct and one is more a reflection of the larger reality.
This makes western thought much more politically directed and driven, since one is necessarily in conflict with and seeking gain from the larger reality, while the eastern view tends to be somewhat more passive.
The flip side is that the more distinct we become from our context, the more isolated we become and the more our societies become atomized, with every individual being increasingly less rooted in any larger culture. So that instead of supporting it and being supported in turn, we become interchangeable, replaceable and disposable to those few riding the top of the wave and seeing themselves as the cultural apex. Which requires them to sustain the focus and drive of the larger society, but allowing far more flexibility to their compatriots at the top, in order to maintain their balance on this wave.
The rational basis of this runs very deep. For instance, in the west, we view the future as being in front of us and the past behind us, because we are moving forward and thus through our context. Much as a hunter moves through the environment, seeking opportunities.
While in the east the past is in front and the future is behind, because what is in front and the past can be seen and are known, while the future and what is behind cannot. In this view, instead of moving through time as one moves through space, one is part of the reality and one is sensing what has already occurred, which is a better contextual understanding of the actual process, but runs counter to our narrative interpretation of the sequencing we experience.
Now there is obviously validity to both these views and they do reflect opposite sides of a larger coin. The western view is much more temporally sequential, which the eastern view is much more thermodynamic and so they play off one another.
As individuals, we do move in one direction, yet as Newton put it, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Action is necessarily linear, while reaction tends to be non-linear.
Much as we see the sun move across the sky, from east to west, while it is actually the earth spinning west to east, so to do we sense the point of the present moving from past to future, when it is the changing configuration that turns future into past, i.e.. tomorrow becomes yesterday. Thus as individuals, we go from birth to death, as the species, the larger context, goes onto future generations, shedding the old.
So if you want to understand what the future holds, know where the energy will go, not where the fingers point.
Heck. The neighbor just reported our cows out again, so my broken collar bone doesn’t save me from that chore. Finish more of this if anyone is interested later.
Loose cows are in the future too…
Now a field of hay is the future, for which I’m only marginally useful. Not a good time of year to be one armed.
Further thoughts from wandering around in the underbrush;
Predators are naturally linear because they have a specific goal. While prey are much more spatial, because they have to be aware. People are an interesting combination. As primates we are extremely linear, but not just as hunters. Just as we have opposable thumbs for swinging around in trees, we have binocular vision for judging distances. This ability to grasp and calculate then makes us good hunters, using tools.
It does though, give us an interesting set of biases.
Reality is, if I may incur the wrath of the physicists and mathematicians, space occupied by energy.
If we remove all physical properties from space, it has two non-physical qualities, of equilibrium and infinity.
While infinity might be accepted, equilibrium raises hackles with academia, but it is implicit in clocks slowing in moving frames, as the frame in which a clock runs fastest, would be closest to universal equilibrium.
Now in this space, the energy/activity(waves) have two primal features, frequency and amplitude.
Effectively frequency is time and amplitude is temperature. Just that as our thought process is a single sequence, multiple sequences are noise, from which we extract a single action, such as rotation of the planet, or oscillations of an atom, to measure as time, but as amplitude en masse is temperature, the total effect of time is cumulative. There is no universal measure. A faster clock simply ages quicker. The tortoise outlives the hare.
Being those linear obsessed primates in the first place and experiencing reality as a sequence of events, we so think of time as the point of the present moving from past to future, as a fundamental quality of the universe. Physics codifies this by treating it as a measure of duration and constructing extremely elaborate math around the patterns. Actually it is future becoming past and duration is the state of the present, as these events form and dissolve.
Thus reality is fundamentally not deterministic, because events have to occur in order to be determined. They are first in the present, then in the past, which is only the residue of this process.
We equate temporal sequence with causality, but only energy exchange is causal. Yesterday didn’t cause today, in the same way a batter hitting a ball causes it to fly away. The sun shining on a spinning planet causes this effect called days. It is the energy flowing through this process which creates the effects and so causality is only temporal to the extent energy flows from one event to another. Much of this gets into complexity theory and thermodynamics, since there is a multitude of input and output to every situation.
Which all gets back to the closing point, follow the energy to understand where the future is going.
As it is, money is quantified hope and the common desire for it is the power driving finance, the energy creating the wave the bankers are riding. Obviously the opposite of hope is fear and when the wave does crash, that is the trough. The bankers will find the people they give the guns to, won’t need them when the system crashes because they hollowed it out, so there will be some bankers being hung out as scapegoats, by the suddenly righteous politicians.
What people need to learn is that money is a system of contracts, a voucher system, not just notes to collect and as such is a public medium, like roads, not private property. Then there will be much less incentive to manufacture enormous amounts to lubricate the economy. Capitalism has metastasized from the efficient transfer of value, to the manufacture of capital as a product in its own right.
Given its mostly backed by public debt, the profits have to mostly go back to the public, in order for the system to be stable. So we can go back to privately managed monetary systems where those responsible extract the rent, or we move onto a fully public system where the public collects the rent from money as a public utility.
Wandering all over the place. Chasing the cows wandering in my mind….
Yes, more, please. Thank you!
Space is fundamental. Three dimensions are just a mapping device, the xyz coordinate system. You can’t create dimensionality from dimensionless points, as anything, even infinity, multiplied by zero is zero.
One of the original fixes to Big Bang theory was when they found there was no lateral motion to those redshifted galaxies to match the presumed expansion, creating the impression we are the center of the universe. So they decided to say it is an expansion of space, not just in space, because “spacetime!” so every point appears as the center.
The flaw in this is that in order to be relativistic, the speed of light would have to increase, in order to remain constant to this space. Remember “Constant,” the big C? Well they didn’t. For one thing, if light did speed up, there would be no redshift. If the light speeded up, it would still arrive at the same rate.
As Einstein said, space is what you measure with a ruler and the ruler of intergalactic space is the speed of light. So if it takes light longer to cross this space, in order to redshift it, that implies a stable measure defined by the speed of intergalactic light, against which to judge this expansion, based on the redshift of the very same light!!! This makes the speed of light the denominator and the expansion the numerator. If they want to say the expansion is the denominator, then the argument would be that light is slowing, since it presumably takes longer to cross this space.
Now we are the center of our view of the universe and so an optical explanation would be quite logical. Basically mass collapses into galaxies and radiation expands away from them as waves and the redshift is some function of taking longer to accumulate the quanta. So it is likely one big cosmic convection cycle, with no beginning or end, because time itself is just an effect of this process.
I’m afraid I tend to be far outside the conventional view, which naturally gravitates to itself, but when the conventional view crashes, either from too much quantitive easing, or too many multiverses, or too many religious fanatics, then they will be looking for different ideas.
Here is an essay I wrote for a contest last year;
For those who don’t see any connection between the chaos in physical theory and economics, keep in mind that in the 90’s, when those bankers needed maths whizzes to construct their magical financial devices, they went to physical theorists from MIT, not their own accountants.
Could it be the theorists think entire universes spring from every thought bubble and the accountants know too much funny math can cause trouble?
I forget… Was it the accountant, the lawyer or the mathematician who got the job by answering that one interview question, ” How much is 2 + 2?” with that ” successful ” answer, “How much do you want it to be?”
Off hand, I’d say the mathematician. With the other two, especially the lawyers, it would be a given that the answer you want is what you are paying for.
Truth is. Answers are what people pay for. Philosophers seek truths, while priests and politicians provide answers. That’s why there are many more people able to make a living being priests and politicians, then as philosophers.
we are indeed linear creatures
This is also a huge profit for the pharmaceuticals, psychologist, psychiatrist, government arena in that if you are not displaying the mood they feel you should be displaying towards XY and Z, that you need medication (more times than not extremely addictive for the patient/employee/citizen) , so as to control and manipulate the moods of the individual/patient/employee.
It’s surely no coincidence that Bernays, the father of modern PR and advertising, was Freud’s nephew. Psychological manipulation is a key component of modern capitalism. Otherwise how could we be induced to buy all that stuff we don’t need? Gotta keep the factories humming.
Fans of the just departed Mad Men may have noticed that producer Weiner never seemed to see anything sinister about the occupation of his workplace ensemble. The show was all about self fulfillment, and even the ending hints that Don will soon be back to shilling Coke–a happy ending. Clearly Weiner should have spent less time with Cheever, more with Adam Curtis (mentioned above). But then not much ratings gold in an actual,as opposed to imaginary, social critique.
MadMen: what a disappointment but I should not have been surprised. I kept wondering why, for goodness sake, that coke song was being played at the end. It seemed so out of place. The wrap-ups for each character seemed loose and contrived and I didn’t believe any of those supposed endings. The characters looked so lost in their respective roles. I thought: “What a waste of time it all turned out to be!”
An apt obituary for that class.
Less time with Cheever? Oh that Mad Men would approach the brilliance of The Swimmer.
The workplace changes that most writers describe as “now underway,” have been underway for almost a generation. Chiefly, they consist of demanding more labour and employee commitment for less return and less security. The methods used to slowly press society into this new form are not subtle, and were noticeable when they began, decades ago.
What has changed over time is the various narratives, delaying tactics, lies and reframing used to tackle each upsurge of protest from the victims of this process. Shaming, confusing, breaking laws and promises, changing the rules, and structuring the debate so as to invert realities are just a few of the strategies, and you see them used over and over.
The overall “rule” governing them is, “We win, you lose.”
So, they want loyalty and hard work, honesty and sacrifice from their workers, but promise nothing in return. They shame their workers in order to get top performance for little recompense, but are immune to shame themselves.
This is the very definition of an abusive, psychopathic person. So in a sense, most American workers are in an abusive relationship. Obviously, we need more shelters for us.
Yes most of what is decried as a “new trend” has been going on all my working life – not quite 2 decades. But it takes decades for the obvious to reach the academics who don’t toil at routine jobs I guess. Of course economically things have been worse since 2008 but they weren’t great in prior recessions either.
My favorite sentence in the whole article and probably the most profound is, “Psychology is very often how societies avoid looking in the mirror.”
But, really, ” a ‘smart’ cup which monitors your liquid intake in terms of its health effects”????? That’s some extreme avoidance. Not to mention all the bartender jobs that will be lost to this “innovative” technology.
I can tell you that THIS consumer won’t be purchasing any of these “revolutionary” devices. I’ve still got my MOOD RING and it works just fine.
I recall some Japanese concern has developed a toilet that does the same!e thing as the cup.
But really though, wouldn’t we all “like to buy the world a Coke and teach it how to sing…”?
NO! Coke is sugar mixed with valuable water.
They actually replaced the wine in the original formula with sugar syrup in 1886. The cocaine didn’t come out until 1903. So, the good parts disappeared early on. The very original Coke formula, with wine and cocaine in it sounds like something strong.
An interesting article from Atlantic about Coca Cola:
Well you can always order Rum and Coke.
“Rum and Coke”, aka “Cuba Libre” (“Free Cuba”), which seems like a paradox in itself…but here’s a case study in how mindless repetition (psittacism) makes for insidious debauchery…and how the “mindfukmeisters” (MADison ave.) distort and obscure social context.
… “Both mother and daughter / Working for the Yankee dollar”…
My dad, who grew up around country stores back when Coke itself was still young, used to warn us kids about not drinking too much Coke or we’d get “hopped up.” He himself would only drink the 6 oz Cokes–back when they still had those.
Of course marijuana was once legal and in the 19th cent people used to take laudanum (opium) like candy. Haygood may be right about the whole war on drugs thing.
No, the cocaine did not come out until the1950s. On one of my visits to the South, I had a very long chat with a retired Coke executive. He volunteered that cocaine was in Coke till something like 1955 or 1957. The company appears to have revised its actual record. Doctors used to prescribe shots of Coke, which was Coke without the carbonated water. in the 1940s and 1950s, typically to women, natch. He describe visiting counters as part of his job and seeing prescription shots dispensed (the Coke employees were big on them too).
In the Fifties and early Sixties, our family doctor prescribed Coke syrup, for intractables like whooping cough. Effective as I recall.
Curious. The Atlantic article talks about the removal of the psychoactive alkaloid by 1929. Is your source high enough up in the Coke hierarchy to be telling you that, *gasp*, the Coca Cola company lied to the world about its’ ingredients? I would not be surprised. The issue of effective levels of psychoactive chemicals in the mix comes into play. How much of a concentration of the alkaloid does it take to produce a measurable effect? One of the comments after the Atlantic article speaks to this factor.
I sometimes suspect it still has some, as it does seem to be highly addictive (I don’t drink sodas anymore) but I figure this is very much in implausible CT speculation territory. I mean they couldn’t really pull that off right? The flavoring is still made from coca leaves just without the active ingredient … or so we’re told. But the stuff is still so addictive.
It could be the sugar itself. I suffer from a form of sugar ‘dependency’ myself, and have to be very careful about my sugar intake. (I do not present as diabetic or pre diabetic when tested at the doctors office. So, who knows?)
The type of sugar used seems to be important as well. I knew a man from Texas who would take the occasional trip south of the border to fill his mothers prescriptions. While there, he’d load up on cases of Mexican produced Coca Cola because they still use pure cane sugar in the mix. (I don’t know about today.) He swore up and down that the Mexican cokes tasted noticeably ‘better’ than the U.S. versions, due to the El Norte habit of using inferior types of sweetener.
Because of the divergent nature of the Atlantic magazines ‘official’ version of the Coke formula timeline and Mz Smiths’ sources timeline, I would not be a bit surprised to find the Coca Cola corporation indulging in a bit of pharmacological ‘branding.’
Which all goes to show the lengths a company or clique will go to for profits and prophets.
“…the pursuit of happiness.”
Jefferson’s biggest mistake…
It was supposed to be the pursuit of property anyway. And in fact it actually is property this society is dedicated to pursuing. Changing a line didn’t change anything.
Scrivener’s errors aside, I think it comports better with these times as written. Positional goods are more about the position than the good. For example, one’s social identity as a Justin Bieber Belieber, or a Democrat for that matter, has very little to do with tangible chattels or benefits of any sort. The “middle class” is generally downshifting to market-rationed experiences instead of expensive things to announce their status. (The loud stereo thing among the hip-hop kids probably has something to do with “providing” cultural experiences to all within earshot I guess. Not my kind of potlatch though.)
Go here for a response from nef by Juliet Michaelson is Associate Director of Wellbeing at the New Economics Foundation (NEF) in London. NEF is the UK’s leading think tank for promoting social, economic and environmental justice.
This society can only function because by increasing people’s self hatred and isolation. Without self hatred, there are many products, religions, gurus, self help books/seminars, political parties/leaders etc. that will cease to have buyers. I want to link here to a very profound examination of one particular religion. The author stresses that many of his experiences and ideas apply to all religions:
“Killing Us Softly” by Jean Kilbourne is another good examination of the relationship between self-hatred and the diminishment of our lives as human beings into “consumers”.
All the technology gadgets have a crack like effect on our brains. This makes relationships difficult. The drive to be together is taken over by brands-political such as Obama and consumer item brands whose owners understand how to use that brain effect against us. We are bonding with brands, not each other. This is excellent for TPTB because people who cannot unite together in a living, breathing relationship pose absolutely no threat to them. This is also true of people who are into self-improvement. The author is correct to point out how “inward” people are driven our society. Navel gazing is encouraged and rewarded. It keeps people from bonding with others to take action against injustice. In fact, much navel gazing concerns learning how to live with injustice by rising into the ether and seeing the world as “maya”.
Here we having a living, breathing, incredible world around us, a world of plants, animals and other people that should cause us wonder. It is being destroyed piece by piece–all that beauty, all that amazing, incredible life. But religions see breathing life as expendable “illusion” or something we have a right to destroy as god’s agent’s of dominion. We are willing to sacrifice the suffering and extinction of others for the illusion of personal enlightenment. This has been a very effective method of controlling people’s impulse to feel pain or feel joy, and act out of either impulse for the good of others.
Keep in mind that currency is a replacement for organic social bonds of trust and reciprocity. Given these natural qualities only extent to those we know well, it is the basis of broader economy, originating back at the dawn of civilization. The consequence is to atomize society and leave individuals isolated.
Weed. Nature’s antidote to capitalism and competition. Along with its older brother, acid. Aka Albert Hoffman’s “problem child”. You can’t run an authoritarian, hierarchical, hyper-competitive, system if LSD gains a foothold in the population. Hence the draconian penalties for possession. Big thanks to The Family for their production and distribution.
I wrote this years ago
You know, some people see the doughnut. Some people see the hole.
I have been gazing into my own navel of late. This nirvana thing seems to be eluding me. It is difficult to keep your eyes on the prize in this society. There are just too many things to distract you.
But what most folks out there think that what we strive for is happiness, but I would think that happiness is a very transient occurrence that only happens occasionally. We here in America are especially vulnerable to the siren call of happiness. In a sense, that is why the big corporations are powerful and we are in the mess that we are. We tried to buy the stairway to heaven.
Because to strive for happiness all of the time is a losing game. The truth of the matter is, happiness is a mirage, a brief interlude where things are going just right and Mr. Murphy is no where in sight. Needless to say, most people don’t achieve this state all that often.
Contentment is a more achievable goal. It is what is truly possible in this world, and in a sense it is almost diametrically opposed to happiness. I think that the best analogy is the difference between good sex and a good marriage. Good sex is great, it puts a smile on your face and a song in your heart. But no matter who you are, whether a porn star or just a schmuck on the street, it can’t really take up that much of your life. A good marriage is a different matter altogether. Sex occurs, but the frequency decreases as the years go by. The marriage is instead taken over by the pleasant day to day contentment of being with a loved one and creating and maintaining a common life. Is sex great? Absolutely. But how many marriages based on sex truly last.
So the key to surviving the coming storm really doesn’t center around your preps. They will center around your attitude. If you think that happiness is your goal, you will probably fail and die miserable. If however, you try for contentment, and try to lead a simple, virtuous life within the physical constraints that will be placed on you, you are going to get by.
And in that span of storm years that we will have facing us, you will find the stretches of contentment and the moments of happiness that will show that you have had a good life.
contentment seems a better thing to seek than happiness, although I think in some connotations it’s too passive (since you can train yourself to be content with just about anything, but you shouldn’t – materially with less on a finite planet, but not emotionally).
“Every age but ours has had it’s model, it’s ideal. All of these have been give up by our culture; the saint, the hero, the gentleman, the knight, the mystic, About all we have left is the well adjusted man without any problems, a very pale and doubtful substitute” (guess who? get yer 5 minutes hate ready cuz it’s the father of positive psychology: abraham maslow)
The increased pace of our lives has made it difficult to attend to or even identify feeling.
It is difficult for me to believe that those people who quantify feeling can want to quantify feeling. It makes
me question their ability identify their own feeling.
The process is objectification which is unfeeling. The vocabulary being used within our culture to describe our peoples interior experience is simplistic and undermining. It is as if nuance has disappeared. I feel pigeon holed by it. It feels as if there is a battle for meaning of the words they use to describe us and then states of our experience of our reality. For instance words such as consumer, care giver, human resource, and on. I hear people refer to themselves using this vocabulary and it hurts. What about curiosity and
love as drivers of productivity and creativity. What about the human challenge to understand our
experience of existing. It is in the purview of us all but at this time it feels as if the field of view is becoming
tunneled and the opportunity to recognize other doors to other viewpoints has become obscured.
Truth is devalued, meaning is recomposed into an image for sale. System needs it to maximize complicity and wants in order to create `sale opportunities`. Appears quite logical. All is potential cash flows. Language is adjusted. That, as they say, is the nature of this business.
Not the best post. Commercial activity has been doing this since the 17th century. This is not a new bug, it is the bug. Commercial or the Merchant Caste is about satisfying materialist lust. At first, they did so for the Aristocracy and when that dried up, they begin moving down the chain. Mass Production gave them the ability to make markets everywhere for everyone.
I’m thinkin there was more happiness (as self sufficiency) in the 17th C. So my guess is that mass production probably achieved the opposite of happiness. Happiness itself must have been a new concept born in the Enlightenment. Because the church definitely didn’t want any sinners to think they were happy. But I think that capitalism just took an excessive free ride on the enlightenment. Because it has not made anyone happy. Material wealth, sorry Marx, has not made anyone happy. Happy is something elusive. We have not yet discovered its wellspring.
Before mass production, most people were ill-clothed, hungry, and disease-ridden. Yes, the “Merchant Caste” misused it to pile up excess for some while leaving others no better (or worse) off, but some form of mass production is part of providing a basic decent life for everyone. Though given global warming and resource exhaustion we may have squandered that chance.
I can imagine a new 12-step program: Happiness Anonymous. Step 1: I am powerless over the constant
pursuit of happiness and my life has become unmanageable.
Happiness is not a destination. It’s not a place you get to and then you’re there. I agree with Yves that contentment, which is many moments of satisfaction, accomplishment, friendship, giving and receiving, etc., is what makes up a general feeling of well being – or happiness.
For the most part, corporate or government interest in “happiness” of the general population is for the purpose of keeping workers (and the increasing non-workers) controlled so they don’t revolt. All the policies of the last few decades have done little to actually increase the potential for the 99% to make good wages and have enough time to enjoy life – happiness.
So-called happiness is not even desirable all the time. Some of my moments of “happiness” have been coming out the other side of a bad period where it wasn’t fun but the struggle produced needed changes or some other form of character growth that does not usually come from the “good times” but the difficult times.
Nice is not the answer to all of life’s problems. I think a lot of these scientific studies are designed to make the general population be nice and not angry, to divert them from looking at what’s being done to them by the policies of the 1%, the facebook study being a prime example.
I am now going to make my Mexican brownies for a barbeque I’m going to today. Everyone loves chocolate (except me, although I like these brownies) and it will make me happy to make them and contribute to the enjoyment of a group of good people today. This is an action, based on many previous experiences of bringing my baking efforts to parties, that will contribute to my general well being, or happiness, of the day.
The top 10 reasons why you should stop worrying and love the happiness industry
Once you know what their game is, you can lay back and get even more depressed. Isn’t that good?
A happiness blanket lets everybody know how miserable you are — without you saying a word
Let’s face it, we need innovation. The smiley face just doesn’t pack the punch it used to. :-)
With government and industry behind it, it can’t possibly be anything but a disaster. That’s something to look forward to!
When they start giving out PhDs in Happiness Science, you can recycle all your old economist jokes. Whoa!
There’s gotta be a 10-bagger that comes out of this, even if it starts out as a penny stock
If it actually works and you get happier, you can complain.
How can “Happiness Science” not be utterly hilarious. I mean really.:-)
With happy watches, mugs, blankets and apps — Christmas shopping just got a lot easier!
and Reason #1 why you should stop worrying and love the happiness industry . . . drum roll please . . .
When the asteroid strike finally smashes earth into a 100 million chunks of space rock, the happiness industry will be destroyed forever. Isn’t that a happy thought?
Reason #8 The smiley face doesn’t pack the punch it used too???
Oh yeah? Try these:
Plus, you get to do your bit to keep the economy running full tilt!
If you think you’re happy…. Are you happy enough?
Hilariously good stuff Craazyman!
This article certainly isn’t making me happy. Are you part of the Unhappiness Industry?
In a way, I suppose blogs like this that I read frequently are trying to jolt people into enough unhappiness to spur more action than has happened so far. Just don’t over do it to the point of driving us all bonkers.
For an updated look at smiley face from the Bizarro comic strip perspective, look at
I keep a paper copy on the refrigerator.
What causes anxiety and stress or in other words the opposite of contentment as Yves put it?
Well, it is the risks we face in our life. Is it good or bad to face some risks? I would think that it is essential for acting responsible, diligent and accountable in the long term. If certain risks are taken over by the Government and therefore transferred from the individual person or firm (e.g. bank), it causes higher risk taking and when festered with corresponding laws, we increasingly put the system at risk. Here a little story in this regard.
“Monday was the most important work day in my father’s working life. Furnished with a substantial amount of cash he went early morning between 3 and 5 a.m. on his way to collect all those calves he purchased the previous week by driving from farmstead to farmstead in order arrive with the fully loaded truck at the marketplace by latest 8 a.m. As earlier as better, as the purchasing agents of slaughter houses and feeding operators may otherwise have covered their needs already. Of course, his long experience and net work was helpful to him, nevertheless, a minor doubt seemed to always remain, as he had to work hard to arrive at the present situation in his life when he dared the first step into independence after having worked as simply an employee at the train station where, beyond other duties, he was assigned to attend the station’s large weighing scale and consequently was able to establish some contacts within and knowledge of the cattle trade. He was fully aware that the wellbeing of his 6 children and wife at home depended on his success. His irregular anxiety attacks during the prior evening often produced a relentless itching sensation on the bottom of his feet and he treated those symptoms with the rigorous employment of a rather rough cloth-brush.
These episodes signify the fact that risk taking can produce a great deal of stress and is quite an unpleasant experience for an individual. However, the question we have to ask ourselves is whether such experiences prove to have a positive longterm effect on the individual person as well as on society at large or whether we should try to prevent such occurrence (e.g. by issuing a government program that guarantees the purchase of all cattle reaching the market). Although the individual detests stress, different studies prove that stress changes the individual’s behaviour in as far as the individual strives to reduce risk which will enhance the values of sustainability, responsibility and accountability. In addition, it is a rather questionable theory that when we redistribute risk to the public domain that the individual person will experience less stress as his attention will shift to other areas of potential sources of stress. In actuality, it is human nature that requires and is looking for challenges as we otherwise will suffer a slow death. This aspect is best demonstrated by the fact that people exposed to a life-changing experiences, e.g. end of one’s career or the death of one’s partner, often fall into a sluggish, dull and depressive state as the stimulating effects of challenges and stress are lacking. In other words, the anguish experienced due to a risky and challenging situation produces in itself a positive outcome for the individual person.”
I’d like to see the recent rise and current ubiquity of “the selfie” integrated into this analysis.
there s hardly anything, technically and financially, preventing a bunch of people to write an encrypted, decentralized, uncommercial social network
most tools and techniques are open source, and since they would not need all the processing power required for crunching the data to commercially usable bits, we re talking about a few thousand dollars for the first year and few dollards per extra participants – and lots, but not so much, free work on spare time.
You know what … if they truly made me happy, I would not care that it was achieved by manipulation. The trouble is they don’t make me happy. Not at all.
On Perfect Airlines, the self-hugging blankets warmed to the temperature of amniotic fluids, will pick the passengers pockets effortlessly as they’re dreaming of their destination.
I am content to promote the open expression of discontent with our current insane system! There is a strangely peaceful aspect to life– after ceasing to drink the positivity Kool-Aid. We are not in a very good place now, and we are clearly heading someplace worse. Yet this has been true for countless people before in human history. The first step to feeling better is to stop grasping at straws, and to start actively working with real people in the real world to solve real problems.
Wisdom comes from embracing reality and seeking to influence that reality in a direction that is harmonious and peaceful. We can all know much greater contentment– if we stop deluding ourselves about the grim realities we all face, and begin working together to rebuild organic ties of love and solidarity among humans.
Faith and Hope are not strategies; they are lozenges to suck on in the waiting room. Charity is however a strategy of observing what is missing and trying something to complete the picture we find ourselves in. Don’t try thinking too much, but think trying something a little, and learning to do missing things easier. Try science, naturally. You get the picture, it’s yours anyway.