Hidden Wonders

Ramble·Society

On the Sorry State of Modern Society


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Table of Contents

Introduction[#]


In the past couple years I’ve become increasingly aware of the many aspects of modern society that are just wrong.

In programming, we have this thing called “technical debt”, which is when the poor decisions programmers have made in the past have made working in the same codebase a lot harder than it could have been if the code was properly designed or refactored earlier in development. I’ve been dealing with that a lot at my job, but more recently I’ve learned that as younger generations grow into adulthood, they inherit a similar “debt.”

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

— Wendell Berry

(Aside: the attribution for that quote is sort of interesting, see here for details)

Decisions made by others fifty, a hundred, or even a thousand years earlier in history continue to effect us to this day——the “technical debt” of western civilization, so to speak. And it’s only getting worse by the day as no one refactors the code, no one fixes the issues of the past. Worse yet, no one even bothers to realize what the issues the past caused even are.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I have a job, let’s use that as our example for everything that’s wrong with modern society.

Transportation[#]


Okay, maybe is article is just a way for me to scream into the void about how much I hate cars and traffic and driving. I drive something like 50 kilometers/30 miles to get to work? I take highways most of the journey, yet the trip is an hour long if I’m lucky. This is because the traffic is hellish. There are too many people, the roads are poorly designed, and the roads could not have been designed better because, already, they were built on top of pre-existing neighborhoods. I just drive along as safely and quickly as I can, blasting vocaloid to keep me sane.

There are so many things wrong with this that I can’t even. The traffic is the obvious thing: if there was no traffic I have like a 35-40ish minute commute, which is fair. But the amount of time this drive takes me is only half the story, another part being where I work. Why do I work so far away from where I live? For economic reasons——this is probably one of the most common reasons why people choose to live far away from their place of work. It’s too expensive to live in a major city where all the jobs are, so they’re forced into suburbs or neighboring cities to find cheaper housing. And thus, I find myself wondering what the consequences of this is on society.

All of a sudden, us commuters become estranged from the community. There is no connection between me and those who live in the neighborhoods I drive through on that infernal expressway. And thus am I isolated from those around me. Imagine a world where a medieval serf would walk through his village to go to the field to work, toiling in the sun alongside familiar faces from childhood. I imagine my grandparents would have grown up in a close-knit community where they actually knew their neighbors well and got along with them well——or poorly, but at least they knew them to begin with.

Purpose[#]


I’m a programmer, I write code: probably 90% of the population or more has no real clue what I do. While what I do is important to certain people, my family, friends, and neighbors probably couldn’t care less about my occupation. I’ve become estranged from the community around me because I produce no value for the community which I’m supposed to be apart of.

This is also the case because I work so far away from home, and because I have to drive all the way there as well. I find myself trying to learn more about history in an attempt to feel some sense of belonging in the world. I learn about my country, my ancestors, and all they’ve struggled, and I feel some small level of solace.

I hope to do something someday that will impact someone in a positive, meaningful way. That’s part of the reason I made and continue to maintain this site, I suppose. I think it is possible to do that through the code I write and the knowledge I will continue to learn. However, if I do someday write a program that will seriously help a number of people, that will not make me apart of a community in the real, physical sense that a blacksmith or farmer was a part of a medieval village (no, there is no such thing as an “online” community).

Entertainment[#]


I like anime and manga, but the reason I sought out the medium to begin with was due to my dissatisfaction with western media. Especially nowadays, it feels like all TV shows have an agenda to push certain political beliefs onto their viewers. Almost always, these stories are about people being oppressed: slavery, Jews in the Holocaust, or any other type of racial or gender difference you could think of. I have nothing wrong with those topics personally, but it’s a big issue when it feels like the entertainment is created to push the director’s view of events rather than to tell a good story. Pandering blindly to minority groups does not make a good story: good writing and good directing does.

I think back to the great works that form the foundation of western literary tradition: the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Bible, or the Arthurian Legends, to give examples. All of these works celebrate the deeds of great heroes, they celebrate excellence. In contrast, western media venerates the weak and disadvantaged, focusing on the victims rather than the heroes. I think it is a major problem when members of a society can’t stop viewing themselves as the bad guys; how are children supposed to grow up in a world where they are taught everything around them——themselves included——is evil, and was created by exploiting others? I believe this is one of many symptoms of some larger problem or set of problems that is causing the downfall of western culture.

Anyway, anime doesn’t have this problem (usually). Stories, if they are made with any agenda at all, are created to exemplify a common theme that is widely applicable. It stays away from the race and gender obsession that plagues western media. The typical battle shonen celebrates individuals on their quest to become better, more powerful versions of themselves, usually filled with themes of camaraderie. Romances and dramas are overflowing with emotions that feel far more genuine and pure than most western dramas. Slice of life shows——particularly iyashikei shows——are amazing shows that help the viewer appreciate life in all its aspects. None of these genres——iyashikei in particular——have any comparable equivalent in the west. Aria the Animation is better than any show produced by Hollywood I’ve watched.

Conclusion[#]


I wrote all this feeling rather helpless about the whole situation. It feels like I’ve been handed an ailing world, one which I have no chance of ever healing on my own. And yet, this defeatist attitude will get us nowhere!

When nothing in society deserves respect, we should fashion for ourselves in solitude new silent loyalties.

— Nicólas Gómez Dávila

There’s a lot in this world that isn’t miserable, and there’s a lot of ways things will get better with time, we must believe.

And regardless, if the world is so terrible, we must better the only thing we have complete control over: ourselves! If we all improve ourselves and act in a way befitting our desired reality, that will inspire other like-minded individuals to act likewise. It’s possible, I believe. (music)


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