In today's times of post-industrial capitalism,
choice, together with individual freedom
and the idea of self-making,
has been elevated to an ideal.
Now, together with this, we also have a belief
in endless progress.
But the underside of this ideology
has been an increase of anxiety,
feelings of guilt,
feelings of being inadequate,
feeling that we are failing in our choices.
Sadly, this ideology of individual choice
has prevented us from thinking about social changes.
It appears that this ideology was actually
very efficient in pacifying us
as political and social thinkers.
Instead of making social critiques,
we are more and more engaging in self-critique,
sometimes to the point of self-destruction.
Now, how come that ideology of choice
is still so powerful,
even among people who have
not many things to choose among?
How come that even people who are poor
very much still identify with the idea of choice,
the kind of rational idea of choice
which we embrace?
Now, the ideology of choice is very successful
in opening for us a space to think
about some imagined future.
Let me give you an example.
My friend Manya,
when she was a student at university in California,
was earning money
by working for a car dealer.
Now, Manya, when she encountered
the typical customer, would debate with him
about his lifestyle,
how much he wants to spend,
how many children he has,
what does he need the car for?
They would usually come to a good conclusion
what would be a perfect car.
Now, before Manya's customer would go home
and think things through,
she would say to him,
"The car that you are buying now is perfect,
but in a few year's time,
when your kids will be already out of the house,
when you will have a little bit more money,
that other car will be ideal.
But what you are buying now is great."
Now, the majority of Manya's customers
who came back the next day
bought that other car,
the car they did not need,
the car that cost far too much money.
Now, Manya became so successful in selling cars
that soon she moved on to selling airplanes.
And knowing so much about
the psychology of people
prepared her well for her current job,
which is that of a psychoanalyst.
Now, why were Manya's customers so irrational?
Manya's success was that she was able
to open in their heads an image
of an idealized future,
an image of themselves
when they are already more successful, freer,
and for them, choosing that other car
was as if they are coming closer to this ideal
in which it was as if Manya already saw them.
- Renata Salecl
I strongly recommend this Talk - Renata discusses very real and relevant aspects of our lives at this point in time.
This Talk corresponds very highly with what Desteni has been saying for a while, though in different words. I can't count how many posts I've written about our tendency to focus on ourselves and ignoring the real world and people around us. We live so much of our lives in our imaginations, whether we are imagining some glorious future or how things could have been in the past. Often our fantasies are completely unrealistic and unfounded - but they still make us feel really happy (even though the fantasies are not real). What does this mean for happiness? What does this make happiness?
I am going to continue this topic tomorrow when my brain is functioning better - for now please do watch or read the Talk.