My musings on different political topics relevant to America today.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Comfort Epidemic

A strange epidemic has hit our society, and its wreaking havoc on our minds.  Its called comfort.  We have so much comfort in our society we don't know what to do with ourselves.  In fact, the comfort epidemic has reached such epic proportions that those inflicted by it try everything possible to make their lives less comfortable.  We work out.  We eat "health" food.  We spend inordinate hours at work trying to fool ourselves that we are actually doing something worthwhile.  We organize everything to the most minute detail, simply because we have nothing better to do.  The comfort bug has hit America hard.  However, we are not willing to deal with the root of the problem, so instead we deal with it at the margins.  We intentionally try to make our lives less comfortable physically and emotionally because we actually cannot stand so much comfort.

Physically, are lives are more comfortable than ever before.  We live in air conditioned houses with access to tasty food at all hours of the day.  We don't even have to put much work into making our food anymore.  We can simply pop in a microwaveable meal or go out to eat.  In either case we do little physical work.  In addition our jobs are far less physical than in the past.  Only a very small percentage of the population must exert a significant amount of physical effort in their jobs.  Only 1% works in agriculture and another 15% in manufacturing.  I was not kidding when I said a small percentage.  The rest of us do almost nothing physically.  We stand around at retail stores being bored waiting for someone to ask us a question.  We sit around in a cubicle filing paperwork and doing data-entry.  Most of us make a living by exercising our fingers or by moving our mouths.  Neither takes much physical exertion.  

This has led to the phenomenon of Americans intentionally torturing themselves physically.  Many Americans ritualistically "work out" and plan out their food consumption.  They run, bike, and swim for no other reason than to run, bike, and swim.  People are no longer using physical activity as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.  Back in the day such a thing would have been unthinkable. If people from 100 years ago had been transported to the present, they would have leapt at the opportunity to eat whatever and chill out.  They would marvel at the fact that we torture our bodies when we have the option not too.  We are afforded the opportunity for the ultimate comfort, yet we pass it up.  We simply cannot stand being too comfortable.  

Americans have a hard time dealing with the reality of how easy our lives are.  We cannot and will not accept that life in America today is easier than life has ever been before, ever.  We try hard to find clever ways to make our lives seem less comfortable than they really are.  Perhaps we simply find our lives boring and want more excitement.  Perhaps we do not think others would find us interesting if they found out our lives are as boring as they really are.  No matter the motivation, we will do anything to make our lives look harder than they actually are.  Many try so hard they actually deceive themselves into believing that their lives really are as hard as they make them out to be.

Just look anywhere in society and you will see evidence of this.  Everyone prefers to be modest of their luxury.  No one wants to be seen as the mucky muck rich dude.  Everyone over exaggerates their poverty.  Someone living in a house with a nice car is more inclined to complain about how hard it is to pay the bills than how blessed he is to have what he has.  This tendency is particular strong amongst young people.  Everyone wants to live the hollywood worthy storyline.  And as we all know, no good hollywood movie is ever made about your average joe (except Dodgeball).  It is far more romantic to come from humble origins than to be average.  It is far more romantic to have family problems than to not.  Sad depressing music was popular amongst so many teenagers starting in the 90's and lasting up to today, though it has fizzled out recently, because it tapped into the desire for self-deception.

The strange thing is, that this epidemic is a relatively recent phenomenon, and is becoming more and more prevalent with each succeeding generation.  Why is this? Its quite simple.  Life has gotten easier and easier.  In addition, my generation in particular, generation y (which covers those born in the 80's and 90's pretty much), has literally had no major trials.  When there was the great depression, then ww2, then the Korean War, then the Vietnam War, then the stagflation of the 70's, no one wanted to add more to their anxiety.  They wanted to emphasize the positive precisely because there was certainly enough bad things going on in their lives.  This is not to say that bad things do not happen to us.  But it is to say that there are less external factors ruining our lives today than there were in the past.  We might have had 9/11 and the Iraq war, but their combined death toll was less than 8,000, amongst a population of 300,000,000.  Meanwhile, the Vietnam War took close to 60,000 lives, amongst a population of maybe 200,000,000.  Needless to say, the numbers are not even close.  Therefore, it is odd why music has actually gotten more negative in the present, not positive.  I contend that is because we cannot stand having no problems.  We cannot stand being perfectly content.  We need some misery, and if we don't naturally have it, we make it up, to satisfy a natural need.

Today is living proof.  The recession occurred, which has affected everyone and has been probably the most traumatic event in American history since the Vietnam War.  The future is no longer so certain.  Americans now have enough problems to worry about, and the music reflects it.  The music has now gotten more upbeat, and even kiddish at times.  Now that we have more natural problems, people are no longer looking to make them up.  Don't get me wrong, people are still suffering the comfort epidemic.  Victims of it can still be seen running endlessly, listening to depressing music, and creating problems for themselves that don't exist.  Nevertheless, the comfort epidemic will forever be with us, and forever people will look for ways to punish themselves for this excessive comfort.

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