Your culture is slowly going insane — and you are under increasing pressure to conform to the insanity.
Living a life which seems to be sane and emotionally healthy by my standards is slowly becoming “radical” by this culture’s standards. To step back from the conformity and collectivism increasingly demanded by culture is now considered weird and radical.
This makes it far more difficult to find friends, allies and even a life partner, because most people unconsciously want to conform to the norms of their culture, even if they fear there’s something dysfunctional going on.
For the most part, normal people don’t even notice that the culture is sick. It‘s perfectly natural for human beings to go along with crowds in unthinking ways. We are trained from an early age to fit in with other people — to earn their approval and to do the things we believe will make them love us.
But what if you’re one of those rare people who see the growing sickness? What if you wake up from the mindless conformity that has been programmed into you? How can you live an emotionally healthy and sane life in a world where almost everyone seems to be bumper to bumper on the highway to self-destruction?
When you first realize that you’re out of step with your culture, there’s a tendency to feel alienated — to fear there’s something wrong with you. In fact, we’re sometimes told that people who don’t fit in with their peers are guilty of being “anti-social.”
But what if you really are the sane one — and it’s your society that is sick? Do you want to make yourself sick by conforming to what the culture has become? Will you destroy yourself — and your children — in order to “fit in.”
When I read Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti’s comment about this issue about 20 years ago, something inside clicked for me. I had felt uneasy about not fitting in, but his framing of the issue allowed me to see that the dysfunctional culture is the problem.
“It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society,” Krishnamurti wrote.
And with that one thought, I finally understood that millions of people around me were busy emulating what their culture taught — buying into values, beliefs, habits and dreams — all for the purpose of fitting in and being accepted. They weren’t consciously doing this, but it was a choice they made without even thinking.
A friend and I were talking Sunday about a range of beliefs that the people of our culture have — things which they act upon every day without even being consciously aware that they believe those things. They get those values from television, popular music, social media, politics and a hundred other sources.
I asked my friend what most people would say if you were to suggest that maybe it wasn’t necessary or desirable to fill their minds with all of these ideas and beliefs from the culture around them. What would they say if you suggested that they disconnect from social media and turn their televisions off?
He looked at me with a funny expression and laughed. He knew very well that they wouldn’t be able to imagine the question. We both knew that they couldn’t imagine life without these digital indoctrinators which are invisibly filling their minds with ideas and beliefs which are not their own.
The 20th century journalist Edward Robb Ellis noticed several decades ago where things were going. This was before the Internet or social media even existed.
“The world is going mad at an accelerating rate and television is the Typhoid Mary of this madness,” Ellis wrote.
Television was laying the foundation for changing the beliefs and values of our culture, but it has been social media and other Internet avenues which have accelerated the process even beyond what Ellis might have imagined.
The culture tells you to consume, so you consume more and more than you would have ever imagined when you were young. The culture tells you that you deserve houses which are large enough and opulent enough to impress your friends, so you buy homes that you don’t need — half a million dollars, a million dollars, whatever it takes.
The culture tells you that you have to look a certain way and act a certain way, so you buy the vehicles that send the right message to others and you act and dress in ways that fit the image. The culture tells you that you are worthless unless you are wealthy, so you throw away your dreams of being happy and loved and satisfied for the emptiness of having symbols of wealth.
The culture tells you that your children must be molded and shaped to become obedient consumers who will likewise become adults with culturally accepted values, so you send them to educational warehouses that brutally reshape them through Skinnerian behavior modification.
You do everything your culture tells you, without even realizing what you’re doing. You ignore the things which should matter to you and you chase the consumerist symbols which mean nothing.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can change your life. It’s your choice.
In so many ways, the social and political systems are pushing “good people” to believe what they’re told. They consider those of us who question their ways to be radicals. They try to shut us up. They call us “phobic” or “deniers” of whatever sort happens to be convenient. They no longer engage with ideas about truth and decency. They don’t see it as necessary to defend their outrageous demands. They shame people into agreeing — and they try to stop anyone from hearing those who disagree.
But I know the culture is sick — intellectually, morally, ethically, emotionally, artistically. And I will not conform to the sickness which this society demands that I accept.
I’m not here to tell you how to change the world. I’m not sure that’s possible in the broadest sense. But you can change yourself. You can change the minds and hearts of the people you love. You can reject the ugly and destructive values of the world. You can start by making love your central value and working from there. I know from experience that one will take long enough.
The first step is to notice that your culture is sick and broken, though. You have to give yourself permission to step away from it. You have to find other people who have seen the same issues and are searching for similar answers. It’s not easy, but we’re out here.
If you want to find the love and peace and happiness that are your birthright, you have to step away from the world’s sickness. You have to make love your highest value.
I can assure you that the sick society around you will not understand, but I can also assure you that learning to love again and learning to think for yourself will change your heart and mind.