Written by Talia Farghaly
Image by Talia Farghaly
The Six Pillars Of Modern Life
Even though today’s society is the most developed to date (healthcare is most advanced, we can connect with people around the world and learn anything and everything online) humans are not the happiest they have ever been. Modern life brings modern challenges into our lives. The next two articles will first discuss the philosophical theory of the six pillars of modern life and then present six portraits of young adults from Generation Z, who experience them. How can we thrive in the tests that is modern life?
Modern society believes that everyone, given they are talented and ambitious enough, can ‘make it’ in the modern world. Therefore, if a person is unable to be successful (aka have an intellectually challenging, well-paid and socially respectable job), society writes them off as lazy and untalented. Meritocracy’s pitfall includes people who do not want to have a highly demanding job and live their life in a dog eat dog world in which worth measures by success. Meritocracy, therefore, devalues jobs that are ‘easy’. It does not include the multitude of factors that play into being successful such as background, family, mental health and especially luck. A cure to meritocracy is the acknowledgement of luck and tragedy. Success depends on luck; being at the right place at the right time. Tragedy can occur in many forms, which is why people who fail in the eyes of society deserve sympathy instead of condescension.
Today’s society preaches individualistic ideals. To be part of the mainstream is seen as a personal failure, especially in circles in which individuality is most important (art, music, social media, comedy etc.). The pitfall of individualism is that community and belonging to a group is what gives people stability. Expecting every person to be completely individualistic devalues the concept of community. It deems the very thing every person needs to hold onto reprehensible. A cure to individualism is the reappreciations of a good, simple life.
Secularism is the cease to believe in a higher power. Religion is a vital concept to put our problems in perspective, by believing in something bigger than ourselves. Without faith as part of our lives, we have nothing that can relativise life’s positive and negative aspects. Being stuck at the moment without perspective on the perplexity of human existence can leave us unhappy. A cure could be purposefully experiencing and using tools of transcendence to relativise our misery. The vastness of spaces, the universe and meditation are some of the ways we can gain a greater appreciation of the ways of the world and humble us in a comforting way.
Romanticism is characterised by the strong universal belief that each person can only be whole once they have found their soulmate who completes them. The truth is that relationships rarely resemble the image romanticism has taught us to believe. The person we choose to share our life and intimacy with can hurt and love us at the same time. Good, fulfilling relationships require time, dedication, compromise, personal growth and therefore are never easy. Consequently, it can feel like a disaster the first time our relationship hits a bump and problems start to arise. This feeling comes from comparing real (by default, imperfect) people to the unrealistic standards and expectations of what a soulmate ‘should be like’. A cure to the disillusion of romantic partners is the acceptance of the flaws of reality. Romantic partners are not supposed to complete every aspect of our lives, they are supposed to support, love and respect us and make us strive to become a better person in the process. They can never be the replacement for non-sexual love and friendship.
Modern society profoundly believes that humankind has the ability to become perfect in every aspect of life. Once we are perfect, we are to be happy, sane and successful at all times. Perfectibility is deeply anchored in our world view, so much so that we end up judging people for being imperfect even though absolute human perfection is a fictional construct. We admire those we consider close to perfection, those whose presentation of ideals (being thin, wealthy, etc.) is showing no signs of imperfection. This leaves most of us feeling inadequate in many ways. We end up disliking our bodies and minds because of the constant reminders of seemingly achievable perfection. A cure would be welcoming that the human experience is one of many flaws. There is no way of escaping imperfection; what we need is people who we can talk to about our vulnerabilities and fears.
6. The Media
Media has become pervasive in our lives. While it keeps us informed and up to date, it also frequently presents us the scariest, most worryingly and enraging things we can imagine. Nowadays we are stuck in an inescapable 24h news cycle that every so often shows us the worst humankind can produce, without any real explanation or balancing exposure to positives. It can make us feel helpless and lost. If we have no way of shutting it out it can negatively affect our mental health. A cure for the overwhelming negativity of the news can be a focus on our close surroundings. Rather than mindlessly consuming human’s worst aspects, we need to take action to redirect our attention to the people next to us.