Welcome to the blog of Miroslav Georgiev - classical pianist and conductor. Here you can read and discuss interesting stuff from the world of music, life, politics and more.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Industrialization, Progress, GDP and more contemporary catchwords, Part III

And so, from the previously written we can deduct how contemporary society defines Progress - as how much a country produces and spends. And here it doesn't matter if the products produced are such useless gadgets like iPods and game consoles, or dangerous ones like weapons; it doesn't matter if the services produced are ridiculous ones like Wedding planning, or ultimately useless ones like Advertising ( yes, you read that right - Advertising is the one contemporary industry which if you think about it doesn't achieve anything at all useful, just on the contrary). We can also throw in here the financial 'industry' which is bafflingly illogical (and we could argue - useless and counterproductive again), but at the same time provides the greatest individual rewards of all industries in our civilization.

Conversely, individual progress is measured with generally how much a person earns per month/year. It doesn't matter if the person needs to spend 15 hours per day, 7 days per week, 12 months per year working - he's making money!

In short, in both individual and public sphere the concept of progress is related to purely quantitative factors, which fail to actually represent any sort of real advancement of humanity. Nobody takes into account, for example, technological advancements, such as new power sources, more efficient  production practices, stronger materials, etc. We talk about how domestic appliances have become more and more fragile in recent years; how our washing machine today, despite being much shinier and sophisticated than our grandma's, doesn't last 1/10 of the time our grandma's washing machine lasted; how our cars, despite shinier and faster, last only half of the time our dad's car lasted; I could go on and on - the examples are all around us. The reason - the companies produce intentionally inferior machines, both to make them cheaper by saving materials, and to make them break faster so that we buy new ones. Anyone noticed how gradually all appliances' maintenance centers went out of business in the last 10 years???

The one branch of technological development that really matters for us is computing, and this has undeniably developed immensely  in the last decades; however, the tragic ways in which we interpret progress and employ computing power is still causing us to use not more than 10% of the capacities of this development.
Nobody takes into account cultural development in a nation - new or better orchestras and theaters won't matter an iota to GDP growth, despite providing to society a much-needed respite from day-to-day drudgery and elevating the general quality of life. On the flip-side, pop culture is thriving, based on endless repetition and recycling which actually doesn't lead to development, just the opposite - all because it's much cheaper to take the most successful old tunes and rhythms and just attach them to a new, fresh and beautiful young face. Yep, when was the last time you heard a genuinely new and innovative pop song?
Nobody takes recreational activities into account either, unless they charge such exorbitant prices for their services that they actually matter for the GDP. On the other hand, healthcare activities matter a lot - not bad, until you consider the fact that half of the exams and medications medics make us do or take today are actually useless; or that another  1/3 of these would be completely unnecessary if we weren't so stressed out and tired of working.

Everywhere you look into the 'industrialized, developed world', you see examples of the above observations. After a feeble surge in concern over the environment some 10 years ago, industrialized countries are back to old-and-tried energy sources like coal and oil, shunning the advanced environmental-friendly and renewable energy sources. And because of that, technological development of these sources has all but stopped, making them even more undesirable economically. Cars running on electricity are being painstakingly developed, and with the speed of this development we may be lucky if we have them at good prices in 100 years (when they won't make a difference anymore). Infrastructure is developing along the same old patterns as 100 years ago - roads and roads and highways; then some more highways and ..... oh, did I say roads? All that despite the fact that these roads are getting more and more clogged with traffic; and despite the fact that rail transport, for example, is many, many times more efficient both speed-wise and energy-wise. But of course, we have the entire oil industry to take care of, and the interdependent car industry - we can't shun these just because they promote an inefficient way of transport!

As good capitalists we go back and forth between home and office every single day - and weekends be damned! (I want that promotion!) Yes, we work on weekends because it's expected of me to show dedication, we are available during vacations because it shows how much I care about the company and my own development in it. It's called 'being productive'. I call it 'being enslaved'. How many times in the last year you've had to endure an hour of traffic, of millions of bodies squeezed on the streets, in the buses and metros, of pollution belching from all the cars in the traffic, the noise and pure stress of it all, just to go spend 9 hours in a cubicle, doing something repetitive which a good program could also do? Or, which you could also do very well from home? 250 times? But of course, companies require utter dedication of you, which means you have to follow the exact orders of your boss; do what they tell you to do without complaining, even if you know better, all the while you're being observed cautiously by your co-workers, ready to pounce on you for the slightest mistake, so that they could get ahead in the promotions race! Oh, and don't forget to look cheerful and cordial through it all - that's what is expected of you! And if you speak out against your company, you're branded 'a traitor' and may well be fired.... 

Sounds like communism, doesn't it? Like the way they treated serfs in Russia, or peasants all around Europe 400 years ago.... Well, it's .... capitalism.

Our society has completely distorted the meaning of Progress. Instead of better quality of life for people, it now means more and more stuff for people, at any cost. Instead of true development, it means some unrealistic measures which don't lead anywhere, really. The results are there for all of us to see - global financial crisis, polluted environment, unhappy people all around us. And that's in the industrialized, modern, progressive countries. Do you know, people, that I've seen much happier people living in some flyspeck village out in the mountain? Why are they so happy, with the little stuff they have, while we are so unhappy, with the mountains of stuff we own?

Isn't it time to rethink progress?

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