Our Sick Society

A few months ago, my mother sent me an interesting TED talk about motivation. It turns out that the carrot-and/or-stick model for encouraging rewards stifles creativity. We need more businesses like Atlassian and Google which employ “intrinsic motivation” (you do the work because it’s inherently a desirable thing to do) techniques like “20% time” and research commissioned by people like the US Federal Reserve agrees. Fair enough.

More recently, I was reminded of an interesting article titled Against School by John Taylor Gatto that originally appeared in Harper’s Magazine. More controversial, but also well-referenced and my personal experience generally agrees. Force kids to be surrounded by other kids, doing boring work and you’ll get mostly emotionally-driven, easily-manipulated adults with the less controllable being outcasts.

It wasn’t until today, though, that I realized how it all tied together. I discovered a long but very interesting article named “Roadmap to a New Economics: Beyond Capitalism and Socialism” by Riane Eisler. The central point of said article being that rather than thinking of capitalism vs. socialism, we should be thinking of domination systems vs. partnership systems.

It seems fairly obvious in retrospect that the real root of all these problems is this “Dominate first, co-operate only if that fails” mentality that our chimpanzee instincts encourage and society strengthens, and as my mother puts it, “bullying is endemic in our society”, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’ll leave this on a related note. I don’t have a URL handy, but I remember reading an article a few months ago about how, all around the world, there’s a direct inverse correlation between the size of the gap between rich and poor in a society and the life expectancy of everyone, rich and poor alike. (In other words, for whatever reason, the more unequal your society, the more years lost off your life… no matter how rich you are. Personally, I suspect stress as the culprit.)

Update: Since writing this, I received another TED talk about the necessity and lack of true liberal arts education in modern western society and an article about how kids teach themselves to read… and how could I have forgotten Bertrand Russell’s In Praise of Idleness?

CC BY-SA 4.0 Our Sick Society by Stephan Sokolow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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