The moment you stop chasing goals, your mind begins to die. As soon as the gates of your comfort zone close in around you, your zest for life, happiness, and eventually your morality wither away. Indulging in the comfort of hedonism may seem tempting in anticipation of the initial honeymoon period when you let carelessness caress your lazy existence. But be aware: Human nature is incompatible with long-term stagnation. Comfort is a temporary desire, but nothing is more harrowing than the ever-repeating hell of Groundhog Day.
The Erosion of Cultural Aspiration
The purpose of our existence is to aim higher than before as we climb the ladder of life one level at a time. Technology has allowed us to make remarkable advancements in innovation and productivity—but our culture has not followed suit.
Digitalisation, social media, “smart” living, and the “Metaverse” have made our lives more comfortable and convenient. This can be advantageous if we use this extra convenience to pursue our goals more swiftly and develop the unique human skills that set us apart from Artificial Intelligence. Our culture seems to be succumbing to lethargy and mediocrity in the realm of art and entertainment. Technology has the power to improve the visual and auditory aspects of a work of art, but it cannot compensate for a lack of depth or creativity. The “woke politics” of current generations place an emphasis on the facade of “social justice” above rational judgement and honest criticism. It accepts that all forms of art are equally meaningful and worthy, regardless of their quality or impact, as nothing and no one should be discriminated against. Such a relativistic notion implies that beauty is omnipresent, unquestionable, and unratable. By adding complex jargon to a shallow analysis, even a weak piece of art can be perceived as a sophisticated creation.
The Illusion of Equality: A Hidden Form of Discrimination
Another consequence of this relativist extremism is the illusion of equality that masks a new form of discrimination. While this approach to implementing social justice appears to treat everyone equally, some views are more equal than others: those that support a socially marginalised group. Whether this is based on ethnicity, disability status, or any connection with the LGBT+ community, victimhood is seen as a reason for reducing expectations and demands for one’s accomplishments. This is not to deny that artists from a minority group may face difficulties or barriers in their field, but rather to question whether restricting opportunities and recognition to an identity group is the best way to encourage diversity and quality in art.
In addition, it has become trendy and easy to self-diagnose with a loosely-defined mental disorder, such as “anxiety,” or to identify with one of the numerous gender and sexuality labels available. In many cases, this behaviour comes from a lack of self-confidence and a desperate need for attention, which are indicators of mental distress themselves. By adopting one of these victim labels, individuals can receive approval from the cultural Marxists of our time, at the cost of their integrity. According to Marxist doctrine, merit-based competition is seen as detrimental, a harsh tool of capitalism. Woke is en vogue.
The Fallacy of Denying Hierarchy
Competitive advancement is an essential aspect of cultural character as it is rooted in our human nature to strive for recognition and achievement through comparison and hierarchical thinking. Those who reject competition are often just as terrible at losing gracefully and admitting defeat as they are envious and condescending when they win. Those who experience a feeling of inferiority from losing are the same players who look down on those who lose to them. It is self-projection, lurking at the core of a self-conscious, spineless, and resentful society. Self-deprecation is the predecessor to self-aggrandisement.
The shallow spokespeople for “social justice” show false humility and become advocates for equity, while maintaining an elite position higher than everyone else. They are the “generous” distributors at the top of the hierarchy. There is no classless communist utopia. We must acknowledge the inevitable presence of hierarchy; only then can we start to shape the hierarchy so that the peak consists of virtue and conscientiousness.
“Cultural Marxism” manifests as a collectivist web of ideas that criticises the prevalence of unequal outcomes, while disregarding how the outcomes were obtained in the first place. Thus, merit has no value in a Marxist society, although it is an indispensable prerequisite for the motivation to work. Without work, society plummets into degeneracy. The Cultural Marxist believes we can trick the organically hierarchical system by uplifting less privileged individuals to “level the playing field”. This idea of pointing out “victims” of inequality started with third-wave feminism and transitioned into the broadly inclusive “intersectional feminism”. However, there is a crux of the problem: no one can ultimately define what constitutes privilege and how to micromanage the hierarchical ranking within society. If we give someone the power to determine where each of us falls on the hypothetical “privilege spectrum”, they will likely abuse this opportunity and structure society in their favor. We must not let the government play God.
Embracing the Journey: Progress over Outcome
Life is a sequence of battles. Some people have more battles to fight than others, but whether we let them intimidate or motivate us is our own choice. What happened to the joy of the game? This is a key problem; we have forgotten how to play the game—how to enjoy the process, rather than focusing exclusively on the end goal. Once we appreciate progress, we can celebrate wins along the way, which will motivate us to keep going, and when there are setbacks, we can learn from our errors, knowing that one loss will not undo all of our progress. Growth is a rising curve with its ups and downs. Competition should not be a source of resentment and exhaustion; it only becomes so if we let it.
What a lazy idea to imagine that you can jump from point A to point Z and get the applause you seek. Competition is not about the applause; approval is a nice perk, but the accomplishment itself is the true reward. Rather than seeking out validation, we should be proud of our creations as they bloom.
The Self-Love to Hedonism Pipeline
Nevertheless, one must not confuse the idea of respecting personal progress with the notion that every participant is a winner. There is a fine line between acknowledging the value of trying and equating the attempt with victory. Getting too comfortable leads to procrastination. We all face individual obstacles that make our journey more or less difficult to master. But no matter what cards you were dealt, with wise goal-setting and attention to your strengths and weaknesses, it is possible to accomplish your objectives.
By victimising the “less privileged”, we do not encourage growth, but misery. Instead of creating solutions, we have surrendered to the pacifying message: “You are enough.”
“You are enough” can be interpreted in two ways: one, accepting mediocrity and demanding unearned respect, or two, respecting yourself, including your flaws, on your journey while working hard to overcome them. The former results in a rapid decline of virtues and skills. Like a muscle, our brains, world views, and statuses need to be engaged with and trained to be maintained or grown.
If we waste our time wondering how much better life would be if we were born with more privilege, we lose sight of the potential that we do have. At that point, we can only go down the road of self-destruction. Rejecting norms and hierarchies is not the “edgy” counter-culture; it is self-deception. There are no cultures, no communities, no professional domains without competition. Where there is diversity of any kind, there is inequality. That is neither good nor bad; it is an inevitable reality that one must acknowledge to get ahead in the game of life. The rules of societal hierarchies are ingrained in basic human psychology.
So, what is the solution to injustice? Base your judgement of others on your shared virtues and rate merit, not identity. The very people who advocate against identity discrimination implement that kind of discrimination in their own politics. Quotas and strategically allocated minority benefits harm both the recipient and those who miss out.
The Conformity Trap: Public Education and the Erosion of Individuality
There is one starkly influential factor that stands in the way of realising our potential: public education, a supposed promotor of personal growth and merit, often falls short of its intended purpose. It is through education that minds are formed, dreams are lit, and futures are crafted. Nevertheless, in the midst of the glorious search for knowledge, lurks a dark shadow that engulfs the heart of uniqueness: education systems around the world are characterised by their dependence on uniformity and compliance.
Students navigate the rigid curriculums and standardised testing, while their special talents and interests are relegated to the sidelines. The fear of failure is deeply rooted in the minds of students, uprooting their willingness to take risks and go beyond the bounds of the predetermined path. It is through failure that we learn perseverance, resilience, and an unbreakable spirit to conquer adversity. By barring students the opportunity to accept failure and learn from it, public education steals away a critical part of self-realisation.
The outcome? A constriction of the human soul through the suppression of the immense potential that every student holds, but can’t express, due to scarcity of time, dedication, and personal coaching.
Public education fosters a sense of purposelessness. The emphasis on grades and academic success, based on a systematised syllabus, becomes disconnected from the greater narrative of personal fulfilment in later life. As young minds are moulded into replicas of repetitive doctrine, their unique passions and talents are cast aside like forgotten treasures. Without the opportunity to explore their personal interests and develop a sense of purpose aligned with their innate abilities, they wander aimlessly, waiting for the next fad to fill the gaping hole of their starved curiosity.
So, we begin to see how the conformity trap of public education intertwines with the previous themes: The pressure for superficial perfection, the empty promises of social justice, and the allure of stagnation all find their breeding ground within the very fabric of public education. Yet, it is by breaking free from these constraints that we can pave the way for a future where individuality is celebrated and personal growth is nurtured.
In conclusion, the allure of conformity and the erosion of individuality within the modern status quo present significant challenges to personal growth and self-expression. Critical thinking is overshadowed by the instruction to “trust the experts”, starting in early adolescence when we are told to idolise teachers who are fed a doctrine-driven standardised syllabus. This constitutes a massive sabotage to our intellectual curiosity. Instead, we have popularised the relentless quest for likes and followers to keep us entertained and distracted.
However, it is crucial to recognize that we are not merely passive victims of these circumstances. It is our responsibility to practise mindfulness in a world of self-centred doctrines and vain messages of pseudo-morality. Do not be led astray by the paradoxical struggle between a desire to feel empowered and applauded by others, yet wanting to cease in the stagnant moment. Fulfilment only comes from diligent progress.
By recognising the causes of cultural demise, we can take the first step toward building a society that values progress over progressive politics, authenticity over artificiality, and friends over followers.
In Part I, we explored how today’s society prioritises comfort over progress and rejects competition, resulting in a decline in cultural aspiration, artistry, and personal development. The advocates of “social justice” in modern times aim to create an illusion of progressiveness and equality by upheaving specific marginalised identity groups. However, this approach inadvertently establishes a new form of discrimination that undermines merit-based quality. The pursuit of a classless utopia through equity proves to be a delusional paradox.
In the following chapters, we will explore how the pursuit of meaning has taken a sinister turn in the era of digital dominance. Behind the glossy facade of social media lies a world where superficiality reigns supreme and authentic connection fades into obscurity. Unmasking this dark reality, we delve into the impact of influencers spreading baseless ignorance on “social justice,” the erosion of intellectual discourse, and the perilous pitfalls of online idolisation. Nevertheless, it is not too late to rediscover the essence of our own purpose.
Unmasking Social Media: Parallel Life Online
The usage of social media for mindful consumption of intelligent content is overshadowed by celebrity-like influencers spreading baseless emotional ignorance and propaganda. Particularly vulnerable to the influence of online idols and peer pressure, the younger generation suffers greatly from social media addiction. The incessant influx of polished content magnifies the lust for validation and fosters toxic comparisons. The realm of “influencers” promotes shameless self-exposure and deceitful glamourization of one’s lifestyle. Thus, bright individuals are shaped into adults whose sole purpose revolves around their own vanity.
Social media and online resources become an integral part of our lives, offering us unprecedented opportunities for communication, entertainment, and information. However, they also pose a serious threat to our mental health and information awareness, as they have taken over the political discourse and increased the risks of disinformation campaigns and grand-scale manipulation. Furthermore, social media creates an illusion of interconnectivity; but in the end, the online parallel universe fuels real-life loneliness. Plus, digital addiction distracts from healthy routines, including sleep, exercise, and physical interactions with loved ones.
Many people either hide behind a pseudonym or have an anonymous second account, almost like a secret identity, to abandon all constraints of accountability. Empathy and respect can be rejected with no social repercussions. It is dehumanising towards everyone, including ourselves. Many already self-conscious users mistake their anonymity for power and will project their self-loathing onto others in a “trolling” manner, rather than providing productive criticism.
Therefore, it is imperative that we reevaluate our role and our priorities on social media. We should aim to act as we would in real life and use the bonus of emotional and physical distance to support our confidence, without feeding resentment. Upkeeping integrity is vital both as an information provider and commenter. Protecting one’s identity can be crucial in controversial contexts that could, for example, negatively impact someone’s real professional life. Nevertheless, this does not excuse us from behaving in a civil manner and using social media with discernment. By maintaining an authentic personality, we ensure that we do not separate ourselves from our offline reality and end up living a double life with two vastly different identities.
Social media is not inherently bad or good and has the incredible potential to produce more transparent, widespread, and honest discourse than ever before. Addictive features must be dealt with responsibly by the consumer and we ought to address the many issues that come with deliberate information suppression, censorship, and targeted indoctrination. But working on the way we share and verify information on the web together is well worth it, so that we get to participate in this astoundingly abundant Information Age.
The Erosion of Intellectual Discourse: The Vanishing Art of Debate
In an era defined by the pursuit of comfort and the rejection of competition, we are witnessing another troubling phenomenon – the erosion of intellectual discourse. The exchange of ideas, once a cornerstone of societal progress, is fading into obscurity, replaced by a culture of shallow sound bites and intellectual conformity.
Especially within the social media sphere, we develop an algorithmically reinforced tendency to end up in echo chambers, while still maintaining the false impression that we have equal access to all information. Platforms curate content that aligns with users’ existing beliefs, creating a feedback loop of confirmation bias. What is more concerning is that many popular social media spaces, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, seem to have established a bias in their system which pushes content that is either apolitical with potential for clickbait virality or has a strong tendency towards leftist political dogmas. This is usually justified by a fear of letting bigoted, hateful, racist content dominate the online marketplace of ideas. But the Overton window has shifted severely so that definitions of such accusations are loose at best. Thus, truly radically hateful content becomes indistinguishable from simply dissenting viewpoints and even scientific counter-evidence to mainstream narratives, as they all get treated with the same punishment: Censorship through subtle shadow banning, explicit censorship, and irreversible channel termination. As a consequence, even just the fear of offending or being labelled as “politically incorrect” has silenced meaningful conversation, leaving many of us trapped in intellectual stagnation. A radically divided society is a fragmented society, where mutual understanding is replaced by name-shouting and populism.
We should muster the courage to reach out to people with whom we disagree, break the algorithmic cage that we tend to build around our social media presence and challenge our own beliefs. This way we gain a much more pronounced understanding of our own convictions and can either strengthen or reevaluate them. Intellectual humility is the essence of wisdom.
Relatable or out of Touch: Online Influencers
The phenomenon of influencer idolization pervades the generation of social media inhabitants, giving rise to a range of concerning issues. Not only do influencers hold significant sway over their followers, but politicians and corporations have also recognized the power of this trend and deftly tapped into it to promote their own agendas and products.
The influence of these online idols extends beyond their individual actions. Influencer fan communities often foster an environment of groupthink and strong biases, fueled by the very parties and companies that pay influencers. In this intricate web of manipulation, we, as consumers and followers, unwittingly become puppets in the grand scheme of promoting specific products or political agendas. Furthermore, it is disheartening to witness how many influencers, amidst their massive privilege, resort to virtue-signalling as a means to shield themselves from criticism. They use their platforms to espouse certain beliefs or champion social causes, while conveniently overlooking the stark disparities between their privileged lifestyles and the struggles faced by ordinary individuals.
The danger lies in the blurring of lines between genuine expression and covert marketing tactics. What may appear as personal endorsements or genuine enthusiasm for a particular cause often turns out to be a calculated strategy designed to serve the interests of corporations or politicians. The impact of these orchestrated campaigns goes beyond mere consumerism, as they shape public opinion and sway the direction of social discourse.
The Superficiality of Perfectionism
What makes these social media influencers so appealing is that they break the border between the celebrity world and relatable content: We are led to believe that our lives must be as prestigious and glossy as those of the supposedly relatable icons we follow. But the truth is that they only share their carefully filtered best moments. Thus, we are exposed to the pressure of superficial standards of appearance and success.
The pervasive message to be thinner, richer, and more popular is a toxic notion of pseudo-perfectionism that cannot be ignored. However, we must also recognize that the body-positive self-love proponents who condemn this race for the most pretentious lifestyle are often the very ones who place excessive value on these superficial factors themselves. Trends and fads exploit our self-doubt and prey on our insecurities, pushing us to the point of exhaustion. Then, the supposed heroes of reassurance offer us messages of self-acceptance extremism, which weaken our ambition and excitement. Thus, we end up feeling unfulfilled and look for affirmation in the same fads we once abandoned. The cycle continues.
The core problem to be solved, therefore, is not the ambition to become our best selves, which is a noble goal, but the very concept of the “best self.” It is essential to reject the pressure of trending products and dogmas by finding balance within our priorities. We must establish a foundation of confidence and reject the idea of flawlessness in a purely shallow sense. Instead of striving for an unattainable standard of perfection, we redefine the values attached to it. We do not need to starve to be attractive, work ourselves to death to be wealthy, or put on a facade to gain fame. Instead, we shift our focus toward health, conscientiousness, and building genuine social connections.
The journey to personal fulfilment and meaningful goals is worth embarking on. As long as we remain trapped in the overcrowded cult of the mainstream, we are both a customer and a characterless product. Therefore, we must focus on creating a life of purpose and authenticity by highlighting what truly matters to us, rather than what the narcissistic Zeitgeist dictates as valuable.
As we confront the prevailing inclination towards comfort and the overshadowing of personal development and cultural aspiration, it becomes imperative to reassess our values and redefine our priorities. The allure of flawlessness and the pursuit of “social justice” often lead us astray, fostering covert discrimination and hindering our own growth.
In the realm of social media, where influencers abuse their emotional impact and algorithms shape our information intake, it is vital to approach with caution. It comes down to putting more trust in our logical reasoning and personal relationships for guidance to shape our worldviews. Emotional processing cannot be replicated online in the same way we feel it in person. The physical dimension is an essential puzzle piece in the way we experience life.
Moreover, the waning of intellectual discourse and the proliferation of echo chambers pose substantial obstacles to societal advancement. By actively seeking diverse perspectives, engaging in meaningful and respectful debate, and cultivating intellectual humility, we can rise above the stagnation of narrow-mindedness and nurture a more self-reflective and empathetic society. Diversity in thought, not just in identity.
Ultimately, the path to self-actualization lies in forging our own unique journeys, embracing our individuality, and focusing on what truly holds value for us. By rejecting the pressures of external expectations and superficial trends, we can redefine our core principles and place emphasis on holistic well-being, genuine human connections, and a sense of purpose.
In doing so, we become active participants in shaping our own lives and contributing to a society that champions progress, even if that means putting our ego aside. Truth over dogmatism. Communication over censorship. To carve a future where personal fulfilment and genuine connection are cherished above all else.