There is a quote from one of my favorites sociologists, Zygmunt Bauman, that says:
“Questioning the ostensibly unquestionable premises of our way of life is arguably the most urgent services we owe our fellow humans and ourselves.” Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences.
Probably one of the most inspiring academics I have ever had the chance to read and study, in this quote Bauman summarized his life work in a nutshell. His studies reflect the importance of our critical thinking towards a society that functions through so many things we don’t agree with but simply consent. Sometimes I catch myself struggling to think outside of the box, and notice that it can get even harder when I pick a subject that is so ingrained into our created values.
Maybe it’s just me but whenever I stop to think about our most organized and conservative institutions and how they work so well sustaining our way of life and way of think, I get uneasy feels. And it’s very disturbing how major institutions rule our lives and how we actually are far from being free. If you stop to think about how the world is designed, our prisons are built between the lines. As much as we can believe that today, in the western modern world, we live liberal times, with democracy and free speech, when we look into the details, you can actually see that we didn’t actually achieve freedom. I don’t mean to sound conspiratorial, but when we pay attention to how our society is built and organized, our lives seem pre-established with the purpose of maintaining order. We are constantly conditioning ourselves to live inside of a box because we are too afraid to disrespect the predetermined little rules of life.
For instance, when it comes to social relations and social standards,we are locked in a model dictated by many institutions as the right way to have a successful life. We are born, grow a little, go to school, graduate, work, get married, spend all of our sweaty money in mortgages, grow a family, retire to grow old and have heart disease and then, die. We live in this format, idealized as the right way of living and yet, don’t even stop and stare to realize that sometimes this little model of ours is kind of mediocre when compared with so many extraordinary things we could do. And when I say extraordinary, I don’t mean things that are almost unachievable — because that’s exactly what we are designed to think about this word. No. I mean not being ordinary, in other words, not accepting all terms and conditions of life without even reading it.
Not accepting that we all have to get married and reproduce in a certain point of life and if you choose not to, man you’re weird. Not accepting that someday you will get fat and old and feel a little useless, because this is everyone’s destiny. But who says it has to be like this? Always remember that you are your worse enemy. We create these conditions inside of us, thinking that if we stay comfortable inside of this box, life can be easier. Not taking many risks, always satisfied but never happy. After all, who knows what happiness is, right?
But if we give ourselves the chance to be extraordinary people, we might be surprised with what comes next. To think critically about our world is not just summarized on politics and international relations. What I see that is missing from people is critical thinking about themselves, and that’s pretty disturbing. We don’t analyze ourselves as much as we should and we are evolving to be a generation of passive-aggressive people, that achieve so many beautiful things online when in fact we sit on the couch all weekend drinking alcohol, imagining many great things we could be doing but feel lazy just to think about them.
We look into the world and the future with the same will we wash our hands after peeing. People are alive but not living, respecting the models and being ordinary without even concerning about fulfilling their dreams. After all what are dreams made of? A marriage contract, eating fatty food on weekends and 20 days of vacation per year.