Ever heard Twenty One Pilots’s “Stressed Out”? It’s a millenial cry for help against the ravages of the modern world. All we do is live so we can get up, make a paycheck, pay the bills and repeat, right?
I don’t share the millenial’s hate and fear of modernity. I, instead, pity him and those who share his sentiment, mostly as no one has ever taught him the truth of existence. There’s no foundation to his understanding of why we have money. For that, I pity him, because he bears a very shallow understanding of economics and why people moved from farming to modernity, in the first place.
Let’s start at the beginning and work our way forward, shall we?
- Pre-humans hunt food like wolves. Work consists of running after food, stopping food, eating food, mating, repeat.
- Too stupid to realize food is random or not-random
- Early humans hunt food, experiment with eating vegetables as they find them
- Finding food at random
- Early humans (later) start organizing vegetables and prey to cultivate them
- This is a huge leap forward — instead of just finding food at random, we’re now organizing food so that it multiplies in an organized fashion, which generally produces much more food than leaving it to chance
- Humans expand organizing food to organizing tools and other functional behaviors
- Taking what we learn from organizing food, we begin finding ways to organize and maximize all elements of life
- Bartering is primary form of trade — You can only trade to someone who needs what you have or can trade what you offer with someone else who needs it and back again
- Value is subjective, locally, changes with region
- Humans spend thousands of years refining the basics, expanding food production, ranching, tool development
- Currency is developed as a replacement for bartering
- Division of labor increases productivity multifold
- Specialization becomes so prevalent that people can literally sell painted rocks for a living
- Modernity enjoys the finest division of every single element of existence, allowing:
- People to live in a world free of survival-only necessity
- Ability to choose our community, even from around the world
- Instant access to information without historical precedent
- Ability to do any job we wish, be paid money instead of barter
Without modernity, we’d all be hunters and farmers. Do you think he would complain that he had to go find food? Do you think he would feel the world pressured him too much to go and survive?
I pity him because he sees only the surface of thousands of years of human effort to get us here and he despairs. He despairs because, to him, this thin sliver is everything he knows. No one has helped him grasp the depth of his own people and their struggle toward a world free of animal survival.
Instead, his parents and teachers have failed him. They tried sparing him the difficulties of yesterday, the darker failures of our past. They didn’t want him to HAVE to know darkness, and yet by sparing him have only set him up for a life of misery. Shallowness bears a misery of ignorance — why is life so bad?
There’s nothing for him to compare modernity to. He doesn’t know of our darkest moments, of men against nature without recourse. We don’t remember the slavery of neolithic tyrants and godkings. We don’t remember famine and plagues. We don’t remember separation by a few mere miles. We barely remember world wars where hundreds of thousands could die by the day.
Instead, we’re offended by internet memes and not-so-politically correct politicians. We’re triggered by CNN articles and someone “manspreading” on subways. Not only can we not hear opposing views, but we’re already crossing the line to burning books and, at least socially, “burning the witches” of putting people in their place who fall outside the “social order.”
We’re regressing because we refuse to teach history because it makes us “uncomfortable.” We’re uncomfortable because we embrace new morals and suddenly expect history to embrace them, too. This proves a severe disconnect with reality, and yet it’s not new. Humans have been doing this for as long as we’ve been humans.
As to why, I haven’t the slightest. And yet, the simple solution is to teach history and, more importantly, teach people how to think through and interpret it in a way that creates true perspective on the present.
Without history, there is no perspective. Without perspective, life’s shallowness seems deep, and if all we know is the little we see in the here and now, every short moment of unhappiness is absolute misery.
“Wake up, you need to make money” seems like a terrible slavery because that’s all life seems like to those without the perspective of time and experience.
If you’re miserable in life, I’d wager you’re missing a little perspective.