Shameful guilt. Part 2.

               Having a billion choices is worse than having no choice. If you have just one road, no other choice, you can say you failed but it’s not your fault. Then again if you have so many choices to choose from it’s got to be your fault, innit? You’ll feel guilty for failing, when the real reason you’ve failed was you’ve been given so many choices no human would have made heads or tails of them. The only reason you’ve failed is because you allowed those around you to dictate your actions, you allowed them to put you in a box – you’ve given them the power to define the rules. That’s the thing. There’s the conspiracy I’ve been mentioning. You are programmed to buy, to consume, but 99% of those things they’re selling you don’t really need. Your actual needs are few. Look at how a todler’s face lights up when his mother or father come home from work. Look how happy you can make a baby with just some attention – your kid doesn’t need fancy toys, he’ll be just as happy playing with the box those toys came in. Your kid needs your attention, your love and your support. He needs to know he can make his mistakes, he can fail, he can learn and shouldn’t worry because you’ll be there to catch him when he falls. He can explore, safely. He can afford to make his mistakes, he can afford to learn, to try and fail and start all over again. His failures won’t be permanent, won’t define him, by failing something he won’t also become a failure. How’z’at? The same things you need, the same things I need.

               For instance, I think food is just food, something to stop my hunger. So answer me this: is a Kobe steak more valuable than the average meat? If you’re hungry, the one that’s on your plate quicker is more valuable. If you’re hungry, you won’t take a trip from Paris to Madrid just to buy a pound of Kobe beef, you’ll be busy grilling to perfection the average looking steak you bought at the local supermercado. Vanity, superiority, elitism, those aren’t and should never be important. Don’t use them as reasons for setting the value of things. Don’t let anybody trick you into using them.

               The problem with what you need versus what you’re sold is you’re always needed as a buyer, as a customer. You’re to buy things you don’t need with money you don’t have and bloody feel good about it too. How do they pull it off? Well for one thing, they start early. You’ll be told you have defects. You’ll be told her dolly is better than yours. You’ll be told the reason Father Claus brings you less toys on Christmas morning is because your family’s poor. Heaven forbid you tell your kid there’s no Sinter Klaas, it’s like you’ve grown horns and spouted fiery wings all of the sudden. No, no, stop thinking, keep buying, keep consuming. If you can’t, then you aren’t needed. You’re defective. You have to be fixed. Here, have some homeopathic water. Or go do some Reiki. You’ll feel better.

               A few years ago I’ve spent half a year unemployed after a decade working in the wrong industry, shoveling crap and taking names, drifting from hr to hr while pretty ladies in skin tight regulation dresses and suits smiled politely before tossing my resume down the crapper. I’ve cut expenses, I’ve had sleepless nights, I’ve begged, I’ve borrowed, I’ve hit myself over the head with things. I’ve had failure after failure. I’d have worked as a lumberjack, as a miner, anything, I’d have done whatever they’d tell me to do – I had a wife and a week-old son at home waiting for me. And her benefits had been just cut, too. But no, apparently I’m so overqualified to be a salesman, even technical and when I wasn’t overqualified for this or that and by pure chance I’d be called at an interview, I’d screw things up royally myself – but always at the second meeting, the one that mattered. It was like my mouth took a will of its own. There’s the luck of the Irish for you. You have no idea how many things you’ll find you can live without, how much you can cut from your expenses. How much you can cut back so the bank doesn’t foreclose on your house. Food, heating, electricity – those ones you can’t live without, especially if it’s winter. Buy diapers. Buy rash ointments. Buy pacifiers. Add all those up. Then see if you care what some mindless brand adept has to say about the superiority of Apple over Android. Takes all the sting out of most shit. So guess what job I got, eventually.. Farming. I’ve supervised disinfection protocols. I’ve done hard labor, I’ve carried crates, I’ve seen my farming, I’ve woken up at 4am to drive the 30 kilometers in an hour (well duh, there’s cows and tractors and stuff on the road) to get to the farm so I can get the shipments loaded on time. And I’ve done those with a smile – I was finally getting out of the shithole. The end of my misery, the mojo was coming back. The man who hired me, at that time, didn’t even look at my C.V. – after just one look at me, a handshake and a grunt, I was just told “you start tomorrow, you got all of next week to learn the basics”. It didn’t matter what my major was, what my master’s diploma stated or where I had worked before. My manager years didn’t matter, my algebra or physics skills didn’t matter, my sales pitch didn’t matter. He saw determination to work, he saw my need, he saw the answer to his need. He gave me value. That man has my gratitude and loyalty until the day I die. Ever been there? Ever cry yourself in hiding so your wife doesn’t hear you and lose hope? Hell of a wake-up call, believe me. But I wouldn’t change that experience for the world. That was my own private catharsis, my end of the beginning, my baptism through fire. Why do you think I’ve told you I’m never angry, anymore? After swimming in hell, even purgatory looks like Disneyland.

               You’re human, you’re bound to make mistakes. It’s something everybody experiences. Why should you feel guilty then? Why should you think a mistake you learn from is something to be avoided? And more, why the hell should you think what they show on your telly should be taken as fact? Companies don’t sell products anymore, they sell fear, they sell shame, they sell guilt. You aren’t as good looking as the singer X, so you should buy her eyeliner. You can’t run faster than Y, so buy the shoes he endorses. Or drink his brand of sugary water. Is that it, then? Osmosis and poof! you get new skills? Knowledge and skills aren’t sexually transmissible either, ask any second year university student.

               Your brain tells you something – but you’re twisting it. You’re feeling anxiety at work, but not because you’re not dressed in Hugo Boss, Burberry or Armani, it’s because you’re missing deadlines. It’s because you’re busy liking facebook posts instead of focusing on your work. You think you’ll get fired from your job so, naturally, you’re sharing your fears online instead of taking a critical look at your behavior. You feel fear, the media is making it worse, then they’re telling you the solution is not to work more or harder, but what do you know – lip gloss. Fixing your round tummy, your cross-eyed stare or your lack of visible muscles. You need a new perfume. Oh look, there’s a Dior one on sale right now, 10% off if you buy it in the next 5 minutes. It’ll give you a +5 literacy bonus.

               Don’t get me wrong, there’s something for everyone. If you’re not fighting say sexual harrasment like your every other co-worker, you’ll sue them on account of discrimination. Because why not me, why anyone else but me? Apparently that’s an acceptable social behavior. It’s written in stone others have to accept you, to like you, even if you’re doing 5% of what your next productive co-worker is doing, and you demand the government has to force others to like you, by law if they must. If you’re not buying that load of crap, you’re defective, you’re weird, you’re excentric. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Why? If you don’t buy things, you’ll be pressured into feeling guilty. If you’re resisting that pressure too, you’ll be labeled as a pariah, eta, outcast, unclean. You’ll be publicly shamed. You’re to be ashamed for who you are because everybody has to have value. No, stop, read that again, I’ll wait. You don’t do anything but others have to make you feel accepted, loved, valued. Sounds like bullshit, innit? Can you alter the market price? Well now, son, take a number, you’re at the bottom of the line.

               There is only one thing you can do that’s never wrong – obey. You won’t be happy, but then again you won’t be shunned, either. Is that the kind of life you want? Society, as a whole, is something average folks use in order to make themselves important. Therefore, the only value society places on you, your market price, is how much you’re able to spend, how much you can buy, how much you can con the drone under you to want. Fortunately, it’s not the society you want to be fighting, it’s yourself. The moment you step out of the line, the moment you dare to think you’re not the content of your pockets, all hell breaks loose – and you’d better never give up and succeed, because if you don’t, if you allow yourself to be trampled and humiliated, you’re going to be even worse than before. You’ll be a symbol of idiocy, the laughing stock of morons everywhere, like the person who changed his name from Shithouse to Latrine (Robin Hood parody, what a movie), even if you’re only trying to climb out of the gutter. You’ll be made an example for future generations – the guy who thought was better than the rest but turns out he wasn’t – don’t think, be content, obey, buy, buy and buy some more or you’ll become him. Or her.

               Have you ever tried to tell shit like that to some punk who thinks he’s hip and trendy, protesting capitalism while wearing the products of capitalism? Who thinks he or she has the right to study Russian literature in university and you have to pay for it? Because clearly it’s a conspiracy the fact there’s no jobs in that area. Because he’s obviously more valuable than you, his carefully picked out outfit is a symbol of protest and you’re too dumb to understand it, or because he’s got his Ph.D. and you’re doing oil rig repairs out in the cold on the Barents Sea 6 months a year. Or maybe because your finger nails are a bit dirty, nevermind you just got off a 18 hours shift making sure some other ironic putz doesn’t choke with his own tongue after a night of heroin and alcohol or you’ve been working a second job cleaning up garbage to make enough money to add an extra monthly pound of quality, pricey food for your kid’s lunch box. Even if you eat bread and tea. Ask yourself this, are you willing to pay the price of happiness? If you are, why then allow idiots to change how you feel about your own decisions? Go find October Sky (1999) on dvd, rent it or buy it. Watch it all. Cry a bit. Then tell me you absolutely have to have the next Iphone for the low low price of 800ish pounds.

Post scriptum:

               So there’s the lesson to learn from: Never ever give up. Learn. Do. Observe. Fix. Fine-tune. Repeat. Go get ‘em, tiger!

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