Life is a pyramid scheme and most of us are the suckers. The supposed titans of commerce that frequent this valley may not consider themselves pushovers, but self-delusion is difficult to self-diagnose. These erstwhile masters of the universe may be located rather high above the desert below, but they are so immersed in the grand façade that they do not realize that they have been tricked worst of all. Indeed, with the limited exception of those whose wealth and power makes them the true principals of the operation, the remainder of the rich have been coopted into the role of proselytizers, the managers tasked with getting the drones to play along. The rest of us, relentlessly trapped in a cycle of accumulation and consumption, are but mere pawns in the dangerous game.
Happiness is not a paycheck or the things that it buys. Happiness is the goofy smile of your preteen daughter when she cracks an inside joke, her mirth at drawing a temporary tattoo on your arm when you are sleeping on the train. Happiness is digging in the soil, planting the bounty that patience will reward. Happiness is a stroll with no destination, alone if that suits or with a counterpart at your side. Happiness is tucking into a simple meal after a long day in the mountains, a cold beer in the shade after a hot bike ride. Happiness is reading a book in a meadow or to a child or to a senior whose eyesight has diminished faster than their zest for knowledge.
Yet, despite knowing this, I am tantalized by the bougie, by the extravagant, by the shiny and new. I am equally disgusted at my penchant for creating waste, my predilection to spoil my little nugget when she is having a rough time, my inability to exist outside of the soul-deadening boondoggle that is the capitalist system. I highly value exquisite food, lightweight gear, inventive beverages, sojourns to exotic locales. I am similarly despondent by the plight of those who are being crushed by the weight of the unrelenting pyramid that descends upon them.
Nominally, my vocation is one that operates according to principles of justice. But anyone who believes that the legal system, whether criminal or civil, rewards moral good and punishes evil actors is either delusional or else has a skewed concept of morality. While there are occasionally outcomes rendered that accord with appropriate codes of conduct, in the aggregate the judiciary is in place to protect the interests of those at the pinpoint of the pyramid. And that is if one can even gain access to the courtroom: the cost of entry is so comically high that it takes a disturbingly high degree of affluence to even attempt to assert one’s legal rights. So, I cannot escape my angst by delving into my work: I am part of the problem.
We have been conditioned to strive for the top of the pyramid, to toil hard enough to achieve what we are taught to believe is success. The pressure to perform, to make money, to respond quickly to an e-mail is making all of us insane. Fundamentally, we undertake most of our daily tasks to create value for a system that is failing us and enriching all but the most privileged few. Mollified by convenience and comfort, we have become anesthetized to the realization that our working lives are largely for naught (unless you are a teacher or doctor or something actually useful!).
I am motivated to dismantle the pyramid. I am keen to build a new shape, a less hierarchical one, a circle perhaps, or at least an oval. Will you help me take apart the bricks? Will you help me topple the structure? It will not be easy, it could be dangerous, there is little glory on offer, unless you count saving humanity from itself. I would be satisfied with that reward.