The Doomsday Clock has been recently set at 90-seconds. Why 90-seconds? Let’s name just a few interrelated reasons: increased probability of nuclear escalation from a Ukraine war that continues without noticeable significant talks for peace; unabated warming of the climate thus diminishing the viability of a life on this planet; continued loss of biodiversity; continuing pollution of air and water; disregarding the need to mitigate the emergence of infectious diseases such as COVID-19. As Rachel Bronson, Ph.D. (president and CEO, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists) said: “We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality. 90 seconds to midnight is the closest the Clock has ever been set to midnight, and it’s a decision our experts do not take lightly.”
Yet, given this frank reality, few have been paying attention. Could it be that people are so consumed by the rat race (possibly even addicted?), in the day-to-day getting and spending to meet their basic needs?
Humans aren’t inherently consumed by or addicted to things, rather such behavior is a (tacitly) learned behavior in relation to that thing. It is learned behavior through constant practice/experience—habitual behavior. The constant practice and experience of capitalism has by design made for an un-attentive, if not apathetic, citizenry. Most all industrialized societies are in different degrees capitalistic.
In the U.S., essentially since the early 70’s–following the blueprint put forth in the Powell Memo—the captains of business & industry (a.k.a. professional management class, the business-minded class) have successfully captured (and defunded) the public sphere. Effectually, making the political class a class of business-minded sycophants, turning main stream news and healthcare into profit seeking enterprises, remaking public education into a test-taking training space yielding an uncritical thinking citizenry, and turning higher education into an economic hardship for most. In short, keeping people concerned about meeting their basic human needs—see so they don’t have time to place focused attention to what’s really happening to them.
Management’s use extrinsic motivation (a.k.a. reward/punishment, operant conditioning) techniques as the way to incite desired behavior among those they have legitimate power/authority over is capturing us as individuals as well. That is, many of us experiencing extrinsic motivation management practices which Ryan and Deci (2020) found that over time we internalize these extrinsic motivating sources. The implication of extrinsic motivation becoming internalized is that individuals come to believe that the external sources are internal—that the motivation is coming from within them—when in reality the motivational stimulus is coming from outside of us, thus supplanting the emergence of inherent need for development—we become alienated from our very own humanity. No wonder so many of us don’t experience the vitalizing spirit and joy from the work we do—and sadly we are unaware as to why.
Having captured society’s institutions, if not much of society itself, capitalism’s intent of wealth accumulation through each atomized individual pursuing unlimited material growth has created a general disregard for life itself. Business as usual translates into societal suicide.
It is long overdue that we think critically about what is actually happening and to do what we can to make this world a very human world, and reject the capitalistic “what’s-in-it-for-me-world’.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of people aren’t even paying attention or capable of thinking critically. For them the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is no different than the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club.
Ryan, R.M. & Deci, E.L. (2020). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation from a self-determination theory perspective: Definitions, theory, practices and future directions. Contemporary Educational psychology, 61, 1-11.