Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Arrogance of Modernity

My sociopath colleague (which one?) has struck again. He has this giant poster up in a stairwell which shows students' responses when they were asked to "define their own values."

Humans have existed for at least tens of thousands of years. Human society is millennia old. Perhaps one thing that has helped humans stick around so long is the culture humans developed. But now we're so hell-bent on throwing away anything that is even remotely constrictive. "How DARE you tell me how I am expected to behave?!"

Thousands of years of accumulated knowledge, versus a couple decades (if that!) of personal feelings, and we all line up on the side of feelings. Who are you to say you know better than every human who has lived before you?

This reminds me of something else I've noticed: the curious tendency people have to be embarrassed of their pasts but not of their presents. See, there was a day in junior high when you thought, "I really need my picture taken today because I look freaking FABULOUS!" And when you see that picture today, you are mortified. You look nothing LIKE fabulous. The things that were important to you ten years ago might be a little embarrassing for you now. In 2006 I was very much convinced I wanted to be a contestant on a particular reality TV show (I won't tell you which one--it's too embarrassing).

I think we all have experiences like this. But for some reason no one can generalize this to understand that the things you're doing right now are just as embarrassing as the things you did ten years ago. You just won't realize it for ten years, but that doesn't mean it takes ten years to become true. It's true today, right now.

We laugh about our ancestors who thought the world was flat, or who thought sickness came from a surplus of blood, or who--I don't know--thought biological sex was a real trait. But we're completely convinced that there's nothing crazy going on in our modern society; we've got it all figured out now.

Personally, I bet that in 100 years our descendants will be horrified to learn how much time we spent with wireless devices held securely against our bodies. "Why didn't you just save time and swallow some mercury?" they'll ask. But, hey, go ahead and define your own values, you precious snowflake you.

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