The State of Humankind

As Nietzsche put it, if you have a why to live, you can bear almost any how. A meaningful life can be extremely satisfying even in the midst of hardship, whereas a meaningless life is a terrible ordeal no matter how comfortable it is.

Some parts are controversial for me. Some parts that made me worried. But there are many parts as well that history is discussed interestingly. The way Yuval connected history to where we are now are brilliantly taken in context also. I am putting here excerpts from the book on our current state.

The Pursuit of an Easy Life

How many young college graduates have taken demanding jobs in high-powered firms, vowing that they will work hard to earn money that will enable them to retire and pursue their real interests when they are thirty-five? But by the time they reach that age, they have large mortgages, children to school, houses in the suburbs that necessitates at least two cars per family, and a sense that life is not worth living without really good wine and expensive holidays abroad. They double their efforts and keep slaving away.

The Pursuit of a Relaxed Life

Over the last few decades, we have invented countless time-saving devices that are supposed to make life more relaxed – washing machines, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, telephones, mobile phones, computers, email. Previously it took a lot of work to write a letter, address and stamp an envelope, and take it to the mailbox. It took days or weeks, maybe even months, to get a reply. Nowadays, I can dash off an email, send it halfway around the globe, and (if my addressee is online) receive a reply a minute letter. I’ve saved all that trouble and time, but do I live a more relaxed life? Sadly not. Back in the snail-mail era, people only write letters when they had something important to relate. Rather than writing the first thing that came into their heads, they considered carefully what they wanted to say and how to phrase it. they expected to receive a similarly considered answer. Today, all people expect a prompt reply.

The Pursuit of Economic Growth

Consumerism has worked very hard, with the help of popular psychology (‘Just do it!’) to convince people that indulgence is good for you, whereas frugality is self-oppression. It has succeeded. We are all good consumers. We buy countless products that we don’t really need., and that until yesterday we didn’t know existed. Manufacturers deliberately design short-term goods and invent new and unnecessary models of perfectly satisfactory products that we must purchase in order to stay ‘in’. Shopping has become a favorite pastime, and consumer goods have become essential mediators in relationships between family members, spouses, and friends.

The flowering of the consumerist ethic is manifested most clearly in the food market. Traditional agricultural societies lived in the awful shade of starvation. In the affluent world of today one of the leading health problems is obesity, which strikes the poor (who stuff themselves with hamburgers and pizzas) even more severely than the rich (who eat organic salads and fruit smoothies).

Obesity is a double victory for consumerism. Instead of eating little, which will lead to economic contraction, people eat too much and then buy diet products – contributing to economic growth twice over.

The State of Humankind

We are connected more than ever in our history. It is easy to look at how other parts of the world operate. In our several pursuits, there are tradeoffs that we accept along the way. It will take years to change the current landscape. But what is good about knowing history is that we can learn from it. Each day is a chance to do small changes to create a positive outcome.

The paragraph in the 3 subtopics - easy life, relaxed life, and economic growth are directly taken from the book. It is just too good to change.

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