The Hydra’s Heads – Pressure

pressure

Last time we were dealing with isolation, one of the fundamental themes of our common misery – or, more expressively speaking, one of the heads of the Hydra haunting us. Again, let’s look at an aspect, at one such head:

PRESSURE

If there is so much financial pressure on people that their thinking is hardly of anything else than to not endanger their workplace by mistake or inadequacy, they are not only de facto defenseless (on account of having no time or energy left to stand up for improvements). They are also so overwhelmed and exhausted that they do not want to worry about anything other than how they should manage until next weekend.

But pressure comes in many forms and does not just refer to the imminent poverty in which more and more people are scrambling along. Even those who do not need to worry about this, can be crushed under a mountain of demands, and perhaps the strangest phenomenon here, is how happily we all accept it and even turn on the screw.

Any invention that should make it easier for us (from the construction crane to the washing machine) will only lead to a rise in standards, instead of making more time for us.

Fresh clothes every day, no speck of dust in the dwelling and an existence as a stainless, oiled little sprocket in the machinery of one’s profession, luxury goods which often serve the single purpose of creating envie with neighbors and acquaintances – this is our life, these are our priorities.

No matter how much one may complain of an unjust system, our own minds are the seeds of its survival, because we accept, right up to the most private areas of our lives, that the continual struggle is the essence of mankind, that it has always been and always will be this way.

And so we run on the spot with all our might, just so as not to fall back – as they do in the caucus race in ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Here are some examples of the everyday pressure, which partly does not even register with us anymore, because it is so omnipresent and self-evident:

Covering the basic needs

The cost of living is hardly affordable for many people: rents make up a large part of the monthly costs, and foodstuffs are also getting more and more expensive as a result of shady agreements and food cartels. According to the last survey, after Denmark and Sweden, Austria is the third-most expensive country in the EU in the food sector.

So by the end of the month, for a growing share of the population, there is nothing left of the money, so that they can neither save up nor invest in improvements.

Anyone who becomes insolvent will experience a bombardment of penalties and default interest, which will make them slide ever deeper into trouble, as if higher claims could make an already impossible payment more likely.

Job loss as a frightening ghost

We are kept in constant fear of unemployment. The unemployed are stigmatized and kept at a subsistence level, although the ratio of unemployed persons to vacancies is now 10: 1. To believe that everybody willing to work succeeds in finding a job (which implies that those who do not succeed must be unwilling) is illusory and borderline cynical.

In the completely overflowed labor market, everyone who is not highly qualified in a highly coveted sector and also at the top of his or her ability, will just keep getting overlooked.

Neckbreaker speed

If you wanted to keep up with developments as a critical citizen, you’d have to spend all your time just getting informed around the clock. The flood of information is growing and growing, events are overturning, and time seems to race ever faster. Partly, this is because the world is much more connected and interlaced, so we learn more about what happens elsewhere.

At the same time, however, precisely due to this entanglement, the number of messages actually relevant to us also rises, because when the proverbial bag of rice tips over in China (a German metaphore for something of no consequence), this is no longer necessarily irrelevant for us.

Since information has become so important, and the Internet makes it available to at least a part of humanity at any time, regular information and disinformation battles are breaking out whenever some corrupt government, organization or corporation sees their dark pursuits threatened.

Who could keep the overview in all this?

So we either give up and turn away, or we drown in such a flood of information that at the end of the day we almost completely forget the bulk of it.

Unnecessary but supposedly important errands

A signature here, an official or doctor to see there, leading to ten more of the same (Is it really impossible to organize that better?), tax declaration, automechanics, heater maintenance, queuing, waiting room, number drawing. Constant shopping, because most of us do not have the space to store food for more than a week. Separating the garbage, cleaning up, sorting through papers.

We have too many things, too many duties, too little a lifetime to waste rushing around pointlessly like that. And as always, the not-so-well-off are hit the hardest: the fewer financial resources are available, the more time is lost – because it takes away the possibility of delegating unpleasant duties to lawyers or assistants, simply replacing defective devices, getting to and fro by car or cab, etc.

Adaptation

Although we live in a time that is almost obsessed with individuality, the limits to social acceptance are still tight. Everything is judged according to its profitability. First and foremost one has to work and not ask uncomfortable questions, otherwise one quickly becomes an outsider.

Anyone who does not know about trends, has not heard the latest celebrity gossip, and does not wear the right brands, is ostracized by the large number of people who have actually placed their priorities in life on such trivialities.

Of course, everyone has the freedom to be what they want … as long as they don’t mind being considered a weirdo. It is no surprise, that psychological isssues are on the rise in such a climate – which then leads to even more exclusion.

Flawlessness

Dentistry and surgery allow for an ever closer-to-perfect look for anyone who can afford it (or is willing to take on debt for it). The downside of this helpful and comforting possibility for anyone who suffers a distorting feature, is that the bar is continuously raised. If you watch older films or series, it is noticeable that the optical demands on actors have since grown massively.

Since, then as today, they have embodied and transported our beauty ideals, our demands on ourselves and to the same extent on potential partners are virtually absurd.

One has to be practically immaculate, so as not to be considered ugly or at least unattractive. In case of the many overweight people, quite a few of whom do not fit the notion of immoderateness nor even have a sweet tooth to explain their body fat, getting the blame for their own misery adds insult to injury.

Status

The bizarre race for status symbols brings forth strange fruits. Depending on the circles in which you are moving, the objects may be very different – but they have one thing in common: they always lie outside of what you can actually afford and are completely useless.

Does a Rolex really show the time better than a watch that costs a hundredth of its price? Is a bag of Louis Vuitton or D & G really so stunningly designed and practical that you have to spend a month’s salary or even much more?

People are wasting their resources in order to gain a spot in the sun at the status race, to enjoy their three minutes of glory before the latest achievement is already outdated and a stale feeling remains.

They thus contribute to environmental pollution and exploitation, since the largest and most expensive brands often have their goods produced under the worst conditions. Above all, however, they distract themselves and each other from the things one should really admire, and to which – if one must exert pressure – others could be animated much more meaningfully.

Instead of elevating the most social, the most empathic, the fairest or the most humane fellow-citizens to the ideal, we admire the ones most strikingly glittering.

Super parents

We put each other under tremendous pressure to be the best parent – which unfortunately is not measured by whether our children are socially behaved and capable of differentiated thinking. We certainly do not want to see criticism and skepticism in them, either. No, it is compared, whose children have the best marks, most leisure activities, the greatest sporting success and (again!) are wearing the most expensive brands.

Quite a few Power-Parents can not rest for a second between their perfect house, their perfect appearance, their perfectly trained offspring and perhaps their perfect career.

Optimization

There’s always something a bit better. We can not be satisfied, do not ever rest on our laurels and do not relax. If at all, relaxation must be associated with optimal value creation. And so, many of us undergo strictly organized wellness, sightseeing, or shopping holidays, where they rush from date to date rather than to really recover. The inner unrest is borne outwards, the fear of missing something and not to use one’s precious time optimally prevents real recovery.

Nothing is ever good enough, from the job to the car, up to the (current) partner.

Last but not least:

Pressure to be happy

Whining is out. If someone is not doing well, they have merely the wrong attitude, do not work hard enough, are succumbing to – if not enjoying – their misery. The fact that there are situations that can break a human being – not through individual traumatic experiences, but through years of suffering – is smoothly overlooked here, and real calls for help are thrown into a pot with egomaniacal attention-grabbing.

We do not help each other out of trouble, but look at those who are left behind with disgust.

Of course, if one suppresses all compassion, the reason is always the same … a social taboo, something wrong that can not be fully understood in words. In the Middle Ages one could not feel compassion with the tormented heretics, in the Third Reich with the political opponents, Jews and other undesirable fellow human beings getting transported away.

Had one put oneself in their place, which is the presupposition for compassion, one would have been compelled to fully comprehend just what one was allowing to happen.

Whoever lets themself be carried away by such notions, however, already stands with one foot on the side of the rebels, for that person would be driven to stand up and protest. So, no … be quiet and don’t get noticed, do not even think about it.

At any time, there was something that could not be looked at or questioned, because otherwise the curtain of righteousness would have fallen – sometimes as dramatically as the above-mentioned examples, sometimes less immediately life-threatening.

But as long as we, as human beings and as society, repress our problems rather than to brave ourselves, there will always be invisible losers in the midst of us, who can or will not adapt to the current – at this point, that would be all who can not perform limitlessly.

We must collectively rest … rethink our values and consciously step out of the senseless race. Our life is restless because of it, in turmoil and determined by rush – we are like a flock of agitated chickens, running mindlessly every which way.

For chickens, of course, this serves the purpose of confusing attackers, while we only rob ourselves of all rationality and chances to cooperate this way.

The way out, as ever, is simple and complex at once. For nothing is more difficult than to grasp and accept what one contributes to madness. But careful – to actually grapple with this, is a life decision which leads to inconvenient insights …

Taking an unbiased look at some of our society’s ways, one inevidably realizes how self-destructive they are … thereby placing oneself with one foot on the nonconformist’s side.

The next time we take a look at one of the other ugly heads of our monster – distorted values.

Credits

Image Title Author License
pressure pressure RAF-YYC from Calgary, Canada CC BY-SA 2.0