Wow, weird heading, right? But don’t worry – it will make sense in a moment.
In essence, mythical utopia and artificial hell are simply terms used to describe the degree to which we blow up the pain/pleasure that might result from almost any future event. Examples include that long awaited holiday/movie/game that turned out to be just marginally above average or that dreaded exam/speech/test that proved to be distinctly non-life-threatening.
This great over-exaggeration of future pain/pleasure is actually nothing other than a natural result of evolution. In order to guarantee the survival of our species, our brains evolved such that it gave us a nice shot of endorphins every time we did something that promoted survival (gather food and water, make clothing, build shelter, procreate) and a fearful shot of stress hormones every time we came in the vicinity of some threat (physical danger or the potential of being rejected by the tribe).
The resulting instinctive drive towards instant pleasure and away from instant pain served us very well in the long human history preceding the brief fossil fuel party of the past century or so. It drove us to gather the resources necessary for survival from our harsh environment and ensured that we remain in tight-knit groups where each person fulfilled his/her role without question. As a result, we managed to stay alive through mega-droughts and ice ages long before the comforts brought by electricity and mechanization.
Today, however, we live in a world with very little resemblance to the one in which our brains evolved. We hunt/gather by breezing through the supermarket once a week and our greatest threats are gradual long-term things like resource depletion, climate change, economic collapse and the “globesity” epidemic.
In other words; we can get the endorphin rush that previously had to be earned by killing a woolly mammoth after tracking it for days through a blizzard by simply swiping a piece of plastic, and stress hormones still flood our systems at the vaguest threat of rejection from the tribe while paying very little attention to the real long-term threats to our way of life mentioned above.
This is the crux of the problem with modern human civilization: we are stuck in this modern fossil fueled paradise with seriously outdated mental hardware. In this new world, the instinctive drive towards instant pleasure that kept us fed even under the harshest of circumstances has turned us into mindless consumers ruining our bodies through over-consumption borrowed from our children and grandchildren. As for the instinctive drive away from instant pain that kept us safe for millennia; well, that is totally useless in protecting us from the long-term threats we face today.
The resulting mythical utopias and artificial hells we encounter in day to day living really are the source of our gravest problems. And understanding these forces lies at the very foundation of successful mental control. More to come…
Filed under: Mental control – Basic control