The economics of complacency
Complacency is an emotional condition. Those with are always scared of being without. Such fear demotivates. And so we choose not to think about it. Someone else will deal with the threats to life, we have more than enough to cope with in getting to work each day. Until, out of the grey, they the job no longer exists and no-one comes to help.
How many people routinely consider the state of the economy? Or properly understand it. Politicians often, and falsely, compare national economics to household budgeting. In reality there is no comparison – families can’t print money or determine wage-rates, governments can. And we live so far apart from those who govern us.
Other theorists create analogies between societal economies and the human body, yet again there is no comparison. A society has no heart, a stock exchange is a gambling casino not a liver, and a government is not a brain. The System is made and sustained by people living in an environment that sustains them, or doesn’t.
Society is comprised of millions of complex human organisms, co-operating or competing and at all times struggling to interpret and manage the sensations of the world around us. And at all times we are only semi-autonomous at best.
We are wholly reliant upon each other, our social organisation, the collective whole, including Nature. Economists attempt to make some sense of this matrix of human interactions.
So does social psychology, recognising that all our behaviours influence the behaviour of all others. At the level of the individual, the emotion influences the intellect and the intellect the emotions. And all behaviour can be understood as the result of the interaction between intellect and emotion – at base, the dual-drive for identity and survival, as a person and as a group.
We struggle constantly with the challenge of valuing ourselves and others, and the interaction required to maintain our needs and feed our desires. Sufficiently loved, fed and housed we seek to conserve, hold on to what we’ve got, and so invest in the status quo. Change becomes a threat, comfort the bulwark to hide behind.
Human maturity can be defined as the growing acknowledgment of our own tendencies and triggers, and the effective management of both in order to function. To do so we have to be in touch with ourselves, to be honest about our faults and fears as well as our strengths and beauty. Some have labelled this as emotional intelligence.
Humans have a narcissistic capacity, especially so when encouraged in a society based upon individualism and competition. Some wallow in our own emotionality and see ourselves as the centre of our own universe, separating ourselves from others. This ego-centricity serves to not have to worry about how we’re seen by others, or how we behave towards them.
Conversely, many espouse the dominance of the intellect and distinguish ourselves as having greater knowledge and understanding, feeling and behaving as superior to others and of being a member of an under-recognised elite. This ego-centricity imposes and seeks to dominate others.
Through both or either tendency we are alienated from others. We are also in a constant state of self-delusion. Little wonder. The illusion spun by the current individualist industry selling notions of emotional intelligence is their offer of “feelings’ as the panacea for a better life. “Listen to your gut instinct.”
Experience will prove that the human can no more trust her or his emotions than we can trust our intellect. Knowledge changes over time, and emotions swell and dive minute by minute. A mature and independent approach is to check out our emotions through exercising knowledge, and check out our intellect by engaging our senses. Such an approach minimises complacency, for sure.
In so far as we are products of our history and environment (and we feel as well as know this to be probably true), our own behaviour is a reflection of society at large. The Capitalist System in which we all live portrays itself as rational, always seeking to be more efficient, demanding of us ever-better time-management, proscribed behaviour and objectivity over emotionality.
In reality, Capitalism operates in exactly the opposite way – anarchic, reactive, unplanned and compulsive. It’s little wonder than many of us mirror the dysfunctional chaos of the System in our personal lives.
Little wonder, also, that we are in a state of near-denial about the threat from global heating. For a start we have been corralled into living in our own tiny privatised worlds. And secondly we have hardly any say in our wider society. Those who have real influence over the economy – the global Capitalist class – are ploughing forward with the carbon economy and it’s emissions in complete denial of the very obvious sensations of global heating all around us.
In response, we continue to seek employment by them to earn a wage in order to consume and derive a modicum of pleasure from life. The society in which we live appears oblivious to the coming catastrophe and therefore so do we.
In our condition of assumed powerlessness, and despite all the scientific evidence and the nagging anxiety of an uncertain future, most choose to deny the peril of global heating.
It is self-evident, both emotionally and intellectually, that the longer we live in a condition of denial, the harder the crash when reality finally hits us. The global economy is slowing and many countries, including the UK, are sliding into a recession probably more painful than in 2008. In addition, the environment is weakening far faster than predicted, with food harvests declining rapidly due to extreme weather events, insect extinction and the changing climate. Drinkable water, the stuff of life, is already a luxury for billions of people.
The responsibility for this is not equally shared. The global economy is run by, and has been created to benefit, a super-rich tiny elite who exert all-but total power-and-control over the vast majority of humanity. They manage us as their “subjects”, and pacify and infantilise us by distributing a heady mixture of fear and its antidote of opiates. The general complacency is the result of alienation, not choice.
Had the majority been empowered to create a society from scratch, few if any would have designed Capitalism. When we open our eyes, this dehumanised, environmentally destructive and emotionally distorting system of capitalist greed, private accumulation at the expense of others, alongside the wanton destruction of the natural world doesn’t feel right and makes no sense.
It’s time to seek human maturity, to get back in touch with ourselves and manage our tendencies of complacency and narcissism. We must stop being economical with the Truth. We must get a grip of our emotions. We must demand true suffrage and self-determination. Crucially, if we are to prevent human extinction we have to understand the need for system change, and replace Capitalism. It’s time to come to our senses.