And Because Society Said So…

I have not had a contemplative post in a long while. Besides the important factor of time, I can’t scrape together enough material to write something that makes sense. Essentially, I wanted some inspiration to write about something serious but balked at the idea of becoming too prosaic and overtly sagacious, which I don’t lay claim to. Also, when the creative taps run dry, no amount of gray matter milking would encourage the free flow of words.

Having said that, in view of certain inhibitions that frequently led me to discard all draft posts that I think would not be a good enough read for the world at large, I was entertained by the startling query that was thrown back at myself – are we too bothered with how society views us? We are expected, at a very young age, to study hard; attain excellent grades at school; make it to a great university; get the nod for the Dean’s list; secure a cushy job with a multinational firm; fall in love with the right partner; get married with kids; prosper in career and then retire rich and independent of social handouts. Repeat cycle for generation after generation for best results.

You can say that this is the Asian mentality – but don’t get this bullshit too much ingrained in your brains. It’s the same everywhere – for example, Brits getting their knickers in a knot over a fair 2:2 honours degree and yet wishing they have a 2nd Upper Degree when it sure as hell does not really make a difference (for the first year at least). Then they flood the forums with questions loaded with self-pity such as will they get into the Magic Circle firms (for law students) and whether they could secure a training contract. So, society imposes…no, demands that you do all the right things to achieve all the perceived good things in life that life can offer you. There are many exceptions to this but I’m not bothered too much about it – schools exist all over the world for a reason and I don’t remember any of the world’s society doing well without this basic need.

It is a fair gambit. Let’s be clear that if one does all the ‘wrong’ things that society frowns upon like getting involved in incestuous relationships, going on a crime spree to rob honest people of their hard-earned labour, etc. then the downfall is richly deserved. In this sense, society and life itself is being very fair – you take the easy way out of things, then don’t complain for the heck of it.

Now coming to the point of taking the easy way out – it is commonly misattributed to only laziness. Yes, one of the important ingredients is laziness but what about circumstances? The average human determination and will to make the best of things is rather credible – enough to ensure a dogged survival through the crazy, inane world that we have to live in but not everyone is born equal. Let’s also not tie-in wealth with being lucky in this equation – there are lots of broken families to be had in affluent society and most rich people don’t acquire wealth through legit ways either. I have millionaire uncles (my own dad isn’t as entrepreneurial as them, it seems but he’s still my personal hero) and they still stress the same formula – study hard, get good results, get a good job. Their wealth should be enough to spill over into their children’s next generation and they should still lead reasonably comfortable lives – but why do they adhere to the same mantra? Because society said so?  

If you have read books like ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki, he’ll tell you that to subscribe to this way of living is somewhat wrong. He did stress that education is fundamental but that you should not rely it as the only tool to make it big in this world. Be that as it may, fools don’t get much sympathy and we don’t ordinarily suffer them gladly. That is the axiom.

I don’t have a good answer here because I haven’t made it to the top – to the effect of merely opening my mouth and speak about something more or less intelligent and the world laps it up with serious intention and probably act on it as if it is the gospel. Do I want it? Yes. Power is subjective – but I desire power and recognition for the best reasons as well. What are we living for if we aim so low down the hierarchy?

Of course, most people are content with their own current lives. By content, I meant that they are reasonably satisfied with their current jobs, partners and such. Granted – the world can offer much more, but a rational standard also has to be respected. We are human, after all. What motivates, guides and forces some of us to be more aggressive in achieving our goals is different across the spectrum but if some people feel that they deserve more, and this is where the saying goes: to each his own. Believing that the world is made up of average people is not off the mark, however, because mediocrity in terms of effort and skill is also commonplace. Scarcity of talent is already one factor that most people would never, ever in their lives, succeed at the highest level and compounding the problem is that the average person envies the successful people but have no inkling nor the effort to want to emulate or come close to that.    

I think it all boils down to this – life itself is a game. You can visualize the objective (goal of the game – you can arbitrarily set the goal and it may be vague but at least it is there in substance). Then the rules of the game are laid down – the doctrine above of going through life and doing the ‘socially approved’ things. You play the game with dice (don’t care how much, but the element of luck is there – to simulate the circumstances that one has to go through etc.). You play the game well and you are amply rewarded. You fail to appreciate the rules of the game and you get booted.

So, it’s not that we are concerned with how society views us that makes us work hard and do the right things in life. Society does not demand that you do the right things in order to succeed and lead a comfortable life that most of us seek. We choose to because we are thrown straight into the game the moment we drew our first breath in this world. The path has been mapped out and the goal is clear. Society exists to ensure that you play it hard and fair.                

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