6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person

David Wong, Cracked.com, Dec 29, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes
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This was written a few years ago, but it's making the end-of-year rounds again, and I think it should be shared (note, though: language warning - it's on Cracked.com after all). The harsh truths are all to the effect that the world is not a nice place. Here they are (quoted):

  • The world only cares about what it can get from you
  • You are nothing more than the sum total of your useful skills
  • What you produce does not have to make money, but it does have to benefit people
  • You hate yourself because you don't do anything
  • What you are inside only matters because of what it makes you do
  • Everything inside you will fight improvement

This is both right and it is wrong. Here is where it is wrong: it is basically a denial that you - or anyone else - has any intrinsic worth. And really, if you get down to it, the Cracked article is really nothing more than effective SEO: find a hope or fear we all tap into, illuminate it with some over-generalizations, and promote the package with some spicy language. And "'the world' appears to mean '21st century Western society in the wake of neoliberalism.'" Surely we can create a society that can do better than this, if only to ensure that children and infants (who produce nothing) are fed.

And yet... and yet... forgetting the part about what other people will pay you or give you, isn't there truth to the idea that we will feel better about ourselves if we're doing something? For all my faults, I feel better about myself when I write something than when I don't, when I cycle somewhere (or work out on the trainer) instead of sitting all day, when I write software instead of playing Civ. Sure, I enjoy the relaxation - we all need that - but the point is, it's rest, it isn't life. Yes, I have worth even if I do nothing, but I feel better if I do something worthwhile (and especially if I can help other people).

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