Every time I take a distance from daily life in the Netherlands by travelling, it allows me to re-enter the developed world with a refreshed perspective on things. Things that were always an unquestionable part of life can suddenly seem abstract or confusing. Please do not feel individually challenged or insulted and consider that this is a general observation, developed over a long time spent going from place to place.
Man’s priorities have gone a full 180º here. Nutrition and health have become of the lesser importance, yet luxury items (cars, a smart phone) are purchased on credit before the consideration of sustenance and a well-running body. Poverty in the USA can be distinguished easily by looking for the malnourished who wear the latest fashion and own flat-screen TV’s.
McDonald’s used to be marketed to children when I was growing up (Happy Meal!). Now I witness commercials promoting hamburger meals for adults. Including a 0,75 liter soft drink.
Driving by fast-food chains I see more grown ups eating there after a day at the job, than actual juveniles. My generation grew up with this kind of fodder being aimed at kids (you’d go once a year after lengthy nagging) and as children do, we always desired to go more often. Now we have jobs and income and are free to do whatever we want. And if you’re lazy enough to not want to cook, that’s a great second excuse to take up this filthy habit.
Less is More
The westerner is encouraged to do less for his reward. Where nature usually offers food/shelter/water after some amount of physical input, more and more services and devices are provided here to minimize the effort to obtaining that reward.
Today I stuck my hands into a machine (it had two holes in it and a sign reading: ‘hands only’) and it sprayed a pleasant mist of warm water and soap onto my fingers, swirling around as it did so to get every inch thoroughly cleaned. We don’t even have to move our hands any more to wash them!
We each desire our lives long to have more free time. First we go to school, university, start a family perhaps and then work forty years on a job you don’t care for much, taking crap from a boss you don’t like and always look out to that phenomenal and hyped-up stage at the end of it called retirement.
Then we get there and have not developed any understanding of what we want to do with that time. We just … always desired to sit around and watch TV more, not having to go to bed or get up at a certain hour or be made to sit down for a meal with family.
So this is what we do when we have the luxury of time and money. And nowadays this lifestyle is becoming more available at a younger age. We can pay for the tasks our parents used to have to do themselves, because it cost too much money. Free time is plentiful in our societies and it is a human characteristic to sit back when there is no forcing function to undertake anything.
I mean, just imagine sitting on your couch watching TV. Hmm, you’re starting to feel a little hungry.
Damn, now I have to get up and make food.
You can get the same reward (stilling your hunger) by picking up the phone and ordering a pizza. You never have to get up, it only costs a little more and it’s brought right to your living room.
You will need to answer the door. Sorry.
So there is no immediate benefit to making your own food, fixing your own water/electrical problems, mowing your lawn, washing your windows. Except for a little economizing. But we are such rich people that this doesn’t matter any longer!
Over the years when I traveled, I always wanted to do more. Given that it is hard to have any sort of daily rhythm when you move from town to town every three days or so, I always had several hours during the day to myself. Yet I was never able to self-initiate much in that time. I could have written more stories and letters, read more books, made art, cooked interesting meals… But you just don’t; you sit around and talk a little shit and watch a film. Self-initiating without the prospect of a palpable reward simply isn’t attractive. And my belief is that most people will plainly fall into an habitual stand-by mode, alike the kind I am perceiving here.
Peter Pan Generation
In the same way people will not ‘grow up‘ if they don’t have to. There are no considerable responsibilities connected to adulthood any more. My generation (1980’s) is seemingly stuck in a perpetual adolescent state; wearing Basketball Shoes and Cookie Monster T-shirts, hopping from partner to lover to partner just because there is no reason to commit to a long-lasting relationship.
I saw a ‘Santa Claus Lane’ the other day. That means some official sat down in an office some place and decided to name a street after a child’s imaginary character? What, ‘Easter-Bunny Alley’ is next? At home that would be the equivalent of having a ‘Sinterklaasplein‘.
The Ultimate Comfort
The goal is to achieve ultimate comfort at all times. So much so it seems, that we become completely intolerant to any hardship (Oh no, sand in my shoes / It’s two degrees warmer than perfect).
In the U.S. This concept seems to have been spinning out of control. Even the pharmacy has a drive-through. Coffee, mailboxes, food, ATM’s and bank service can all be reached from the comfort of a car seat!
I learned one thing about the ‘western’ individual: Don’t attempt to invite someone out of their comfort zone by suggesting an outdoor activity… In some homes I visit, I feel like an intruder of the TV-watching schedule. The damned things are never switched off and fill the room with an uninterrupted noise and light show.
We are going now
We shall let you be
With your TV