“We have bigger houses but smaller families: We have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgements; more experts but more problems; more medicines, but less healthiness. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but we have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbour. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we have less communication. We have become long on quantity but short on quality. These are times of fast foods, but slow digestion; tall man, but short character; steep profits, but shallow relationships. It is time when there is much in the window but nothing in the room.”
Now, this is exactly the kind of bullshit I’m talking about.
I’ve seen this quote several times, recently, always attributed to the Dalai Lama (Per Snopes, attributable to Dr. Bob Moorehead, former pastor of Overlake Christian Church in Seattle — Ed.). As far as I know, he said it. Frankly, it doesn’t matter to me whether it was actually him, or not. For all I care, it could be the work of a bathroom graffito at a truck stop or some poor, misguided philosophy student just coming to grips with the fact that he knows nothing. The point is that its being lobbed around, with very little criticism, as some kind of wisdom saturated guide to self deprecation and analysis of modern society. I’d like to point out, however, that it is actually a pretty good analog for exactly what is wrong with the people who do the speaking for the liberal minded factions of unsatisfied people in the world.
What we have here is someone who has noticed some problems with the way we live our lives, here, in the first world. There is nothing difficult about that. There are some really upsetting things about western civilization and some truly horrific ways we behave. Pointing out the different ways in which we suck is less an exercise in careful research and analysis, and more a “Holy shit! Look at all the fish in this barrel!” kind of deal. Pretty much anyone who has any sort of perspective on life in developed nations has a problem with it, unless, of course, you’re one of the assholes sitting at the top of Mt. Excess, chucking spark plugs at poor people as they try to clamber up the sides to escape the lakes of bullshit you installed at the bottom just to increase their misery.
It should be really, really easy to write a statement that is 100 percent accurate, doesn’t resort to imagination in place of observation and describes things that we should think about changing in our society.
Instead, the author of this quote has taken a very healthy stride away from reality, put on his “Oh no! Every single thing ever is worse than it used to be!” coloured glasses and vomited this poetic looking puddle at housewives, hippies and people who want to save the earth one facebook update at a time.
There are plenty of parts in this quote that deserve a harsh slap and some serious red pen, but I’m gonna look at just two:
Example of just… horrible judgment number 1: Line 5 – “more medicines, but less healthiness.”
It would take a truly, significantly error prone observer to believe that this is even remotely accurate as an assessment of modern living. To even sort of believe that people living in first world countries aren’t medically better cared for than ever before is quite close to stupid. We live in a time where we have medical treatments, procedures, pharmaceuticals and machinery that almost guarantee a life lived into old age. The fact is that people living in developed nations, (even America, where so many have what some consider to be dangerously substandard health care), almost never die (of illness) before living a full, long life. We have the ability to defeat or diminish almost every disease or affliction that has ever been considered a scourge to humans. The fact that there are a few left unconquered is not evidence of how crappy our health has become. Merely the fact that we can confidently identify what these killers are and that we are actively (meaningfully) looking for better ways to fight them should tell us that we are pretty fucking awesome at this keeping each other alive business.
Example of just… horrible judgment 2: line 9-12 – “We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we have less communication.”
Here, the suggestion appears to be that we have displayed our creative genius and might by creating the most powerful communication devices and networks the world has ever seen, connecting entire populations throughout the world with each other to communicate cheaply, effortlessly, with virtually no limit, but that we waste it by posting bullshit on facebook, instead. Putting aside the irony of the fact that I keep stumbling over this gem on facebook, there is still so very much wrong with this assessment. In order to avoid seeing the truly deep, important communication being achieved every moment of every day between people who, in previous ages would never have had the opportunity to even recognize that the other existed, one would have to be, just phenomenally cynical. Allowing uninspiring, lazy communicators to cloud one’s view of the really excellent communicative ease we enjoy is disingenuous, at best. Were we to take the worst of everything and judge the total by it, we’d never see positive in anything. Judging modern communication by teenagers’ texting habits is like judging the relative worth of cinema by Pauly Shore’s filmography. To not see that science, humanitarianism, literature, art and literally every single worthwhile endeavor humans attempt are being assisted tremendously by our communications advances is not possible for a person who has taken even a perfunctorily honest look.
Anyway… As I said, I think there are more places to hammer at this quote and I may do so in another post. For now, I’m just happy to have started off my blogging life by unleashing some haymakers at the Dalai Lama. If we can’t rely on hugely influential world icons with reputations for integrity and honesty to speak with integrity and honesty, it really does not bode well for the average person chiming in with his thoughts while a circle of people tries to hammer out an “occupy” manifesto. There isn’t a rich asshole in a position of power anywhere in the world who can’t poke this quote full of holes without even uncocking his incredulous eyebrow. We need you to try a little less hard, Mr. Lama. The truth is infuriating enough. Stop making shit up, and try to focus on the stuff that’s actually broken.