Archives for posts with tag: Experience

Recently in class we read a lecture by Michel Foucault, “Society Must be Defended,” that really got me thinking.

In this essay he talked about the transition between two modes of thinking: man-as-individual, to man-as-species. Before, when we had monarchy and sovereign rulers, an individual’s actions were defining. They determined, at least to an extent, life or death. If a man stole, his right hand would be lopped off. If he insulted the King, his tongue would be cut out. For even more ‘sinful’ acts, he’d be killed. Man-as-species, however, is a shift from individuation to, if you will, ‘massivism.’

I would argue that this shift of the deindividuation of the human is an era we still live in. Today man is one in a society; a nation; a population. We are all ones in 7 billion, and our governments treat us as such.

Our problems only become their problems if they are generalized: when they become the problems of the general public. The problem of one is trivial. It’s meaningless. One in the whole is nothing.

Foucault goes on to describe the term biopolitics, which is when biological processes, such as mortality rates, birth rates, illnesses etc., become political issues. An example he uses is endemics. They cause mass spikes in mortality rates, which are expensive to manage and decrease the productivity of a population. As such, there comes the “solution;” the implementation of public hygiene. It is not out of altruism, where the government personally cares for each individual’s health. Instead it’s a result of the economic consequences of that endemic. It’s a general problem, so they fix it.

What’s more is that governments use biopolitical statistics to influence our behaviour. Yes, it’s true. And no they are not manipulating our every decision. But they are feeding us grandiosely large statistics like mortality rates so that we invest in health care. They paint university degrees as tickets for high paying jobs, success, and happiness. They emphasize stats about the likelihood of accidents so that we invest in car insurance. Would so many of us pay thousands of dollars worth of insurance each year if we didn’t hear about how likely it was to get in a car accident? I’d say not.

That is the power of biopolitics.

So, what’s my point? Are we all just doing what we’re told to, in a society where our contribution to it is manipulated from us? And the summation of each citizen’s contributions creates a stable economy so that our government can function? Is our sole purpose, in their eyes, to be tax paying citizens? Foucault would say yes. Most anti-institutionalists, and countless others, would agree. And, contrarily, lots would disagree.

I would say that right now, yeah that’s probably the case. But there’s good news. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

There’s a social shift occurring. It’s becoming more evident as Generation Y graduates from college and doesn’t immediately integrate into the corporate world. We’re refusing more and more to become cogs in the machine. We’re traveling more. We’re creating new innovative jobs that we’ve never seen before. Industry as a career is fading into the generation behind us. Sustainability is a Major at University.

These are all examples of this social revolution.

Between the three children in my family, born to a businessman and a lawyer, we have three picturesque examples of Generation Y. A Canadian Athlete, who is choosing to set his sights on making a career out of sailing (check out his website here http://matthewrydersailing.com). A video game design major, who is as passionate about video games the way most people are passionate about chocolate or coffee. And a creative writing major, who is going to join the career path of the thousands of “starving writers.” None of us chose traditional careers. Each of us pursued what we were most passionate about despite the challenges we will undoubtedly face because of it.

But why should we have done any differently?

To say we know what we’re doing is a laughable misconception. We haven’t figured out how this new social attitude will fit into the world over the next fifty or so years. We’re transitioning away from what we know. We’re focusing more on what we care about. And we care less about money. We really do.

Generation Y would rather live frugally than work a 9-5 cubical job. It’s just what we want out of life. We’re focusing less on society as a whole; we’re ascribing less importance on our industrial or economical contribution. We care as much about our community as the youth always have, but we’re valuing less the monetary aspects of it.

To be clear, we’re not shifting backwards to focus on the individual again. We’re evolving into placing importance somewhere entirely new. Passion and experience. Humanity has now gone from emphasizing the individual, to focusing on us as a species, to caring about our relationship with the world, and its relationship to us. We want to get more out of life than financial stability. We want to travel because it’s interesting. We want to work towards something amazing because we’re passionate about it.

This social revolution is a shift beyond biopolitics. It’s a movement away from the institution as sovereign. It’s an evolution away being a cog in the outdated machine. We are our own machines. And our cogs are what we choose to invest our time in, not our money.

I’m not going to pretend we understand it all. I’m not to say we’re going to get it right. But we’re going to do what we love, and try to make that work.

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Does it make us up? Like collected molecules or building blocks that we slowly stack together throughout our life?

Sometimes memories slip away into the ever growing distance in time between past and present. They fade, and sometimes diminish in importance as new ones take their place.

Maybe memory is just a collection of ideas, values, and learning’s that we draw on for the rest of our lives. Maybe they’re a whole bunch of different voices, each grown from a different moment in our life, that speak to us in our heads when we make our decisions. These voices would be the aftereffect of experience.

Sometimes, stupidly, we ignore those voices. And we make drastic or impulsive choices. And afterwards we think, why didn’t I think before I did that? But maybe a more accurate statement would be why didn’t I listen to my voices? Or specifically, why didn’t I trust my experiences?

Maybe it’s a drifted off memory from long ago of going on a rollercoaster. Maybe they just aren’t your thing. But in the present your friends are telling you to go on it, and the exhilaration of the moment pushes you to try it again. Despite the fact that there is that nagging voice in the back of your brain reminding you that you don’t like rollercoasters, you go anyways. So you go on one, and you hate it. And you think, I knew I didn’t like rollercoasters, so why did I just do that? Why didn’t I think?

But what would happen if all of those voices were erased. Or at least, a large population of them were. What would happen, if the last five years of your life simply disappeared. Time didn’t, you’re still the age you are now and you still technically experienced every moment of those five years, but they simply appear to you to have never happened. Would you be the same person? What knowledge or life experience would be stripped from your personality?

I’d be the equivalent of a 14-year-old girl, scared of people she didn’t know, and about to start in my second year of university. Not the much more sociable 19 year old who knows how to live on her own, and talk to strangers. (At least ones in safe settings like classrooms)

My point, and my question put simply is: what is memory? And what are we without it?

If we realize that we would lose a huge section of who we are by forgetting those five years, regardless of actual lived experience, then memory is probably a pretty pivotal part of us. A significant chunk of our person.

Knowing that, and knowing that realistically, or at least probably, we’re not about to lose the last five years of our memory, what do we then gain from this knowledge of the importance of memory?

Maybe what it means is that we should focus on making the best memories going forward for the next five. If memories are that important to the person, we should take care in creating and remembering the absolute most incredible, life altering, and mind changing memories from here on out.

In five years, would you like to remember that you spent a lot of that time on the couch? Or that you ate a lot of pasta because it was easy and quick? Or would you like to instead remember concerts and baseball games and karaoke nights and cafés and restaurants, and cooking food for the taste and enjoyment of the meal?

We may not be able to ensure an accurate or lengthy log of memories. But we can make them as memorable as possible, and hope that we won’t suffer a random bout of amnesia that will steal these precious experiences from us. We all focus on the amount of time we’re given, but what’s time without memory?

We’re all a product of our own experiences in that they become our memories. And it’s memories that we should have forever. Whereas experiences are quick and fleeting. Some of us have had 10, 20, 40, or 80 years to accumulate those experiences. I would like, in my life, to focus on creating those personality-inspiring memories.

I may not understand what memory is, or perhaps how it affects me day to day. But maybe all I need to know is to not waste the chance to make a great one. And I guess that’s as good an answer as I’m going to get.