Demand is the theme of our world. Even countries that have tried to avoid capitalism, or have embraced theocracy, have stratified wealth, class, personal status, and they have materialism, too.
Perhaps it’s human nature to be drawn to what others have deemed desirable.
No matter what psychologists say, we seek affiliation, and imitate others, all the way into old age. Humans are social creatures. Wanting to belong is not necessarily a symptom of neurotic insecurity or immaturity.
Not feeling like we belong, and the very similar feeling of not being validated by our culture, are perhaps the main causes of alienation and suffering. These two feelings drive people to war, migration, depression, addiction, and all kinds of internal and external destruction.
But there’s a key that can be used to escape alienation when it is not actively and literally killing us from the outside: the knowledge that value, and worth, and validity, and demand, are completely subjective and arbitrary.
In one city, software coding is a skill in demand. Those who do it can most easily find jobs that pay very well. In another city, doctors and nurses are most in demand because it’s a healthcare-dominated economy. Across the sea, in a wartorn nation, the people living like rock stars are aid workers — non-profit employees.
In the ghettos of the world, and corrupt nations, crime bosses get paid, they have shiny vehicles and followers.
On the Internet, brazen celebrities with their excessive statements and flamboyant wardrobe and makeup and plastic surgery choices draw the most attention and admiration.
In one culture’s music, fiddles dominate. In another’s, electronic subbass does.
In one culture’s fashion, the most respected women cover up most of their bodies. In another culture’s, women go almost nude.
In one nation’s film industry, the most common story, and the winner of awards, is the realistic story about humble, common people. In Hollywood, most movies must be unrealistic and fantastic to get funding and attention.
In one economy, teachers are paid the equivalent of $7000 a month. Just across the border, in the next country, they earn the equivalent of $1500.
Each time we rotate and zoom in the telescope, there is an entirely different value system. And if we add the feature of sliding back and forth in time, we can visit times when one behavior, smoking cigarettes, for example, was placed at a nearly polar opposite spot on the value scale as it is — slide forward — today.
Value, and values, are not objective. There is no universal “good” or “desirable” trait, job, behavior, role, dress, identity, art, style, or belief system. Even religions disagree about what constitutes “good” behavior.
You can run afoul of the status police in one place for something that is positively hip somewhere else.
Because of this, we cannot logically say that because one behavior or trait is in demand in one place at one time in history, that it is superior to others. We cannot say that one person is superior to another person. But that’s what society tells us, by allowing us access to what we desire and need incumbent upon how in demand we are in that place at that time. We are rated in dating based on contextual value systems. Rated by an economy (and paid or not paid accordingly) based on how in demand our skills are. And subsequently, depending on our government’s level of intervention and regulation, our standard of living will be affected, too — what kind of place we can afford to live in, in what kind of neighborhood, and what kind of medical care we can access, and schools we can go to and send children to.
Society does not know that value is arbitrary. It believes that subjectivity is objective. Society is not logical or intelligent. It is mass movement, and its movements change with the times, without apologizing or explaining.
This is part 1. In Part 2, I’ll explore how we can actively reduce alienation in those who aren’t in demand.