“Although every one of us is a person separate from others, and hence endowed with interests that are in some ways distinct from those of the rest of the world, one must always reflect that one could not survive alone, and that one is in effect one of the parts of the universe, and more particularly still one of the parts of this earth and one of the parts of this State, this Society, this family to which one is linked by residence, by oath and by birth. One must always serve the interests of the whole of which one is a part, in preference to those of one’s own person in particular.”
–Descartes, 15 September 1645
This quote is taken from A History of Civilizations by Fernand Braudel, which I am currently reading. It struck me because it correlates so closely with the current economic recession.
Civilization has created many hooks- marriage, children, mortgage, debt- which have traditionally been incentives to keep us working in the pursuit of happiness. We work for a reward- the means to support the well-being of ourselves and our loved ones- and in exchange the economy is productive and the State is successful.
If that reward is no longer worth the work to the individual, or those incentives become liabilities instead of assets, then there is a fundamental problem with the balance of roles in the Society. I think this is actually at the core of the problem that Western Civilization is facing today.
I’m just thankful that I managed to escape the soulless work culture of the U.S. and the only hook I caught was student loans. I’m one of the lucky ones.