Between the blue and the white of my Facebook interface, I squint to read the feed. Between pictures of food, articles about tragedies or politics and YouTube videos I find the odd quote. It sounds like one of those inspirational TED talks or motivational speakers you would laugh at after smoking too much weed in high school. I always thought these were cheesy. I always thought the people putting them up were cheesier.
It takes a special type of person to openly espouse “wisdom” on social media. This type of person is what Aldous Huxley would call “peter pans” in his book The Island. They are conceited. They think they’re better than you. They think they are better than most people. How do I know this type of person? I am one.
The TED talks generation are a bunch of lost souls. A couple decades of neo-liberalism, mass consumer culture and the erosion of traditions and working class culture have left us dazed and confused. We are in desperate search of meaning. Many of us shave our heads and join cults or buy Sarah Palin books.
This endless search has given rise to the motivational speaker. The people are different but the story is the same. Some regular Joe who had a bad drug addiction or gambling problem gets it in their head to do something. That something gets them rich or prominent. They talk about ‘drive’ and the individual.
Every individual is special. Every individual is good at something. Every individual has some higher purpose. Pursue your dreams. Pursue your pursuits. You can stand in front of a bunch of high school students, shake your hands emotionally and raise your voice. Remove the children and empty the room. You’re just a jerk waving your arms around yelling about bullshit.
It’s fucking rubbish. Individuals do nothing. Great things happen when we work together as a society. This is why team sports are much more popular than golf. No one wants to watch a bunch of posh, well-dressed assholes swing a stick alone.
It is when people work in unison towards a cause, when they work through one another’s strengths and weaknesses, that they create something beautiful. This is how nations, movements, languages, cultures and highways are built.
All this talk about empowering the individual is disempowering. When someone tells you to “be the best you can be,” spit in their face. We don’t need self-help, we need community.
There are only a few people who can pursue “ideas” or as individuals “make the world a better place.” Those are rich jerks. And they’re not even doing such a good job. They go on late-night TV infomercials trying to make us feel bad that we are not with them in some third world slum milking starving babies.
They want a donation. The cost of your morning coffee or something like that. Go fuck yourself, buddy.