If you’re a regular listener to this podcast you’ve probably heard me bash capitalism a lot. The reality is there’s no escaping it, it’s taken over nearly every corner of the world. That certainly hasn’t stopped me from wincing whenever I travel to a far-away lands and am met with local trinket shops and people peddling their wares. But who am I to judge whether this is good or bad for a society. Oftentimes these are poor, macho communities with substantial pressures on them. They see the money come in and out of their world without them able to touch it. Often these countries also have remote destinations that house incredible archeological sites, but have a community that remains poor and helpless to take advantage of its history. And then there’s the question: should they? And if they do, what would that do to their culture? Would it be a positive or negative thing to suddenly take capitalism and mix it with something like archeology?
There’s an incredible separation between the stuff we consume— like food or products— and the people who are making that stuff for us. Certainly in the States we walk through stores and everything is plastic wrapped— none of us can imagine that all the pieces came from an animal let alone the work environment that people who created the product for us had to endure. Our products are created for us in the same way— we have no idea how they’re made or how it’s affecting other people’s lives on the other side of that chain.
The reality is there’s huge industries obsessed with obfuscating the scary truth because when you strip it back, people are having incredible life-threatening situations and we have no idea. The reason we have no idea is because there’s effort made to constantly pivot or rename bad things so that we think the products that we’re buying are “green” or otherwise humanely created.
Ever notice how frequently the word “addict” is used? Just do a Google News search on the word and you’ll be shocked just how often it’s used in a headline. Articles are plastered with mentions of drug addicts, sex addicts, gambling addicts, food addicts, shopping addicts, work addicts and internet addicts. “These people” are painted as out-of-control and often menaces to society who need to be stopped, jailed, medicated or otherwise cut off. But what if those diseased people weren’t sick at all? What if you suddenly realized you were one of them? Well, that’s what happened to me. In preparation for this podcast, I realized I’m an addict. I’m an addict who comes from other addicts, who has passed it onto my kids, too. I’m constantly looking for a way to not be with myself, a way to avoid the pain I have of not having meaningful bonds. In this chat with physician and best-selling author, Gabor Maté, we talk about the shocking truth about what causes addiction and the things we can do to address the problem. What’s cool about Gabor is that he avoids quick-fix thinking when he tackles things like addiction, ADHD, sickness and the human spirit overall. Rather, he shines lights on the often uncomfortable truths that live at the root of these things.
We’re born into a culture where trillions of decisions have already been made by the people who have lived before us. The entire human world is constructed of these expectations, so by the time we join that world as an adult, it’s pretty easy to feel like most of our decisions are limited and oftentimes made for us. When that operating system is screaming to go to school, get a job, buy all stuff that makes your life better, have some kids and borrow enough money to make it all happen, it can feel like your margin for independent ideas and motivation just got squashed. It’s no wonder the decisions we think we’re making don’t feel very rational. No wonder how we can completely lose the motivation to keep slaving away. If you were an alien watching our evolution, you’d see a few big decisions but on a day-to-day basis we’re blind to how the decisions we’re making affect not only our own life but the future of our culture.
There are two kinds of people: those of us that are domesticated and those that feel strangely out of place. The ones that feel out of place, might not be able to communicate why, but know in their gut not only that our world is toxic but that the systems and traditions we’ve created don’t feel even close to natural. No matter which camp you fall in, both feel depressed, frustrated, anxious and flat-out unsatisfied as they get dragged through our culture’s unfriendly demands just to stay afloat. Have you ever asked yourself how and why we’ve sabotaged ourselves like this? Author and Psychologist Chris Ryan, has tackled big parts of the Matrix through his and his wife’s book, Sex at Dawn, his podcast Tangentially Speaking and his forthcoming book Civilized to Death.
Even without hard numbers you most likely feel the economic polarization that’s been happening over the last few decades. And who needs numbers to know just how much technology has changed our lives. It’s the connection between tech and the economy that I personally find super fascinating and it’s an area of expertise for this week’s guest, MIT’s Andrew McAfee. Andrew is a principle research scientist at MIT. He’s focused on how tech is changing business, the economy and society overall. He’s written a number of books on this, the most recent one is The Second Machine Age, which was a New York Times bestseller and won a book of the year award. He has been a referenced source by Harvard Business Review, The Economist, The Wall St. Journal, and The New York Times. He’s talked about his work on The Charlie Rose Show and 60 Minutes, at TED, Davos, the Aspen Ideas Festival, and in front of many other audiences.
As day-by-day goes by do you even have a sinking feeling that none of life-as-we-know it, is sustainable? There’s a fragility to the things that we’ve built in our post-WW2 civilization that seems like it could topple over at any minute. It just doesn’t make sense. Surely we know there’s not really an endless stream of resources and a well-oiled machine that backs up the world that we’ve come to expect and rely on. If you want a completely different point of view on what that means long-term, then this podcast with James Howard Kunstler is a must-listen. Jim is an author and a critic with many non-fiction, novels and plays behind him. He’s also done a fantastic TED talk on “The ghastly tragedy of the suburbs,” a lecturer at universities not to mention a frequent contributor to The Atlantic Monthly, Slate.com, RollingStone, The New York Times Sunday Magazine.