There are some of us in this world who refuse to adhere to the machinery of the daily grind. We abhor the idea of being a carcass dressed in a suit who is on a conveyor belt to become a robot. The mantra that we are force-fed is that to be productive members of society, we must slave away at a job we hate for hours on end. For some of us, work does not stop when we leave the office. I am going to explore why this way of life may not be truly living.
Our recreational hours dwindle due to the sheer workload which means that we have only an hour or two to take part in something that we enjoy and that we have chosen to do. Sometimes, we are so drained from the daily grind that we skip recreation completely and retire to bed, only to start the cycle again the next morning. This is not truly living. The Greek philosopher Parmenides said that one cannot possibly be doing nothing if one is a thinking being. This debunks the common argument that if and when one is not working, they aren’t just sitting around and doing nothing.
Following on from Parmenides, Diogenes, another Greek philosopher believed in living in accordance with nature. Some of the non-conformists will take on this idea and escape to somewhere that is desolate and largely secluded. These people will shun the outside world for the most part and walk to the beat of their own drum.
This impediment on our thoughts does not begin in adulthood, it begins with institutionalized education. Our thoughts are guided in accordance with the syllabus set by those on the board of education, but we must pose the question; what makes those thoughts right? Why must we believe what they tell us?
We are forced to wear a uniform that will make us a perfect copy of our peers. We are not allowed accessories which is another opportunity to be depersonalised. They loathe individualism. Original thoughts are condemned and stifled because free thinkers are dangerous to the conformists. To think freely is to be stepping out of the confines of the societal bubble. Free thinking poses a danger to society because it forces people to reconsider everything that they know to be true and to consider the fact that they are wasting their life. People are studying for a master’s degree who are working at a coffee shop. This is their means of survival because becoming a cog in the machine ensures you the currency needed to live.
Pink Floyd often explores these same themes in their music. Welcome To The Machine talks about an unnamed person who once had all of these dreams and pursued rebellious hobbies such as playing the guitar. Instead of succumbing to the same machine that has shaped everyone else, they wanted to be different. Unfortunately, he appears to be falling into the same trap, hence the title.
However, some of the population throw themselves into work to escape themselves and create freedom. People with intrusive thoughts may attempt to escape the voices inside their head. This situation has nothing to do with conformity, it is more about survival. The need for survival overrides any thoughts of conformity because there can be no arguments for it until the need for survival is met. A frequent occurrence in modern times is people retiring and then choosing to go back to work. According to research in Aging & Society, 25 per cent of retirees return to work.
So, the question is do we really know ourselves? Perhaps we have been so inundated with the idea that being a working citizen is beneficial to yourself and the world that it has become an addiction. We receive that dopamine hit from the work and the belief that we are being good citizens and once that is gone, we become depressed.
Most people view workaholics as those whose thoughts solely revolve around work, so much so that it affects their home life but what if this wasn’t the case? What if we have been so heavily conditioned to believe that work is a necessity to life that most of the population are workaholics.
We could also argue that those who return to work are attempting to avoid a labyrinth of insanity. Some believe that their work gives them their identity and when they retire, they no longer have one anymore. I see the reason for boredom used as a reason for returning to work but why can’t they engage in hobbies?
There are thousands of activities one could do but that just does not seem to satiate that itch. Perhaps we have been conditioned to associate our identity with having a ‘stable’ job. It does not matter what activity you do; nothing can ever replace that work.
It is famously known that the philosopher and cynic Diogenes owned nothing but a few rags to cover his modesty and a wooden bowl. Upon seeing a homeless child using his or her cupped hand to scoop water, Diogenes chucked the bowl away. If we apply this theory to some of the non-conformists, it relates to what I said earlier about materialism. To such people, they can achieve freedom solely by giving up materialistic possessions and essentially, living with what they were born with. They will live using human nature and hone their skills of crafting necessities from raw materials.
“Man perishes; his corpse turns to dust; all his relatives return to the earth. But writings make him remembered in the mouth of the reader. A book is more effective than a well-built house or a tomb-chapel, better than an established villa or a stela in the temple!” — Irsesh, The Immortality of Writers
The above quote is taken from an ancient wisdom text of Egyptian Philosophy. It is something that I believe to be true amongst many writers. Most will say that writing is not more important than one’s own family, but it is the essence of self. Some of us write to solve problems and some of us write to let them escape us through the ink.
Writing pertains to freedom by being an outlet of expression. Every person around us can judge everything we do or say but our writing will not. Writing relates back to survival because in some cases, writing something down is the key to rising above that labyrinth of insanity. Writers are kept alive long after they have died by their writing. Edgar Allen Poe lives on today because of his famous work.
The existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, his thoughts were that you must believe your thoughts could change the world. I don’t believe that one person can change the world by themselves but they can certainly put a large indent on it. How we act is how we believe society must act. Humanity relies on the valuable thoughts of the average person. Many people have platforms to speak on but we mustn’t forget about the people who fight for their freedom amongst a wall of noise and dismissal. Sartre argued that thoughts could be explored far better in prose than in poetry. Sartre kept a journal that he often wrote his assessments in and these observations are key to non-conformists. We may not conform but we observe every move others make. We have a keen eye for discerning the undertones of how the machine works and how each of us plays our part. We are pawns in a grand game of chess that we have little chance of winning, but in time we will.
It has taken centuries for us to get to where we are today and even now, the cogs to this machine are still being burned out to be carted off this mortal coil to the scrap heap of the rebellious. The concept of the machine is often denied and dismissed but it is certainly present. We are the cogs and the oil that greases us are ideas that propel us to a higher and purer freedom. He also said that in fashioning the self, you are fashioning humanity. For one person, this is an awful lot of responsibility and the prospect is quite daunting. This responsibility can impede freedom because you are responsible for shaping humanity and mistakes can be detrimental to forming a cohesive society.
Sartre believed that we are condemned to be free because we did not create ourselves. We are responsible for how we act in situations that we find ourselves in because we did not choose to be. Society believes that we have a duty that we all have an inherent knowledge of but if we think like Sartre then this cannot be true.
Society treats humanity like play dough, we are malleable commodities. Our thoughts are shaped to keep order within society. This relates back to the institution of school and how they direct your line of thinking. We are the subordinates of the elite and they ensure that they can keep a lid on us. One could view our existence as an experiment. Roles are given out and we must fight to the death to change them.
When faced with the question of freedom, most people become defensive. I have discovered that a lot of people present you with the old statement that because they had to do an unpleasant thing then so do you. Complaining is something that is criticised because ironically, they believe that by fighting for your freedom, you are wasting your time. The search for freedom may alienate you from your peers and cause them to worry about you. If you are not swimming in the same misery as everyone else, then others believe there is a problem.
Often, people become very envious of celebrities because of their wealth and seemingly perfect life. However, what they do not realise is that money does not solve everything. Celebrities are followed by paparazzi constantly which impedes their freedom. The portion of society who envy these people have never experienced that wealth and have a lack of ability to see the bigger picture. Money does buy you things, but it will never buy you happiness. Perhaps it is their lack of freedom from being conformists that cause them to envy those who they perceive to have achieved that ultimate freedom. Not everyone is envious, some use the successes of others to motivate their own.
Again, this all comes down to the comfort in thinking that this is what we are destined to become. The daily grind is seen as the ultimate show of productivity and being miserable within that is merely seen as a normal byproduct. Ultimately, one can only be enlightened if they recognise that freedom is out there and it is worth chasing. I am a non-conformist as are many others and we believe in our freedom. We refuse to be condemned to societal norms and how they guarantee our misery.
What I have discussed is the ancient history of freedom and how many of the great philosophers have come to define their own freedom. Society has changed and continues to change regularly but the search for freedom remains a constant. Faux Living is effectively turning us into mechanical robots who are merely carcasses stuffed with preordained thoughts. I shall finish with a quote from George Orwell’s 1984;
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.”
This quote encapsulates what Faux Living has always been about. We are and have always been under the thumb of predetermined thoughts and actions but it is up to us to break down those walls and strive to be truly free. If we don’t wake from our cryogenic sleep as we are zombies of the system then an Orwellian boot will be permanently marked on the ashen and overworked face of your corpse.