Monday, 2 June 2014

Hikikomori - the bleeding edge of human development?

I've always had sympathy with those much maligned individuals who hold a teleological view of human progress.

However, where I think they're going wrong is in thinking that the human race is heading for some sort of apogee, a nirvana.

No, water runs downhill and so does human nature.

Life is all about survival; tens of thousands of years ago life was hunt prey, kill prey, cook prey, eat prey, sleep and try to not die reproducing.  There was no leisure time.  I imagine the caveman who took time out to grind coloured rock and fingerpaint an elk or a hand shadow was regarded as somewhat eccentric.  But what he had invented, as well as art was leisure time.

And since then we've been carving out more and more leisure time from the necessary hunting, cooking and not dying bits of our day.

If you want to see the direction of travel, teleologically speaking, then look no further than the Japanese Hikikomori, the latter day hermits.  These people have created, or are least trying to create, 100% leisure time.

Hard work is going out of fashion and the Hikikomori are just leading the charge.  A century ago Britain had 20000 working class brass bands; now that figure is down to 1000 or so.  Men who worked with their hands were proud to maintain their own cornets and trombones.  Hard work was its own reward.

My children, given the choice between kicking a ball around and playing video games go for the video games.  I'm, of course, shocked and appalled because that's how society has wired my brain.  As a parent I feel a need to instill a work ethic in them, but I'm beginning to wonder whether a Protestant work ethic or Catholic guilt are two sides of the same socially-constructed coin (or possibly sides of a die as we want to be inclusive here); something society has made up to get us to work because we've had to.  Even the Hikikomori don't feel 100% happy with their lot.  Truth is that my generation only kicked a ball around because the XBox and Wii hadn't been invented.

What innovation will tender today's screen based entertainment redundant?  I predict some kind of floatation tank with added narcosis, foodstuffs made by robots and nanobots fed to us through tubes.  We'd all be watching blu-ray boxsets of shows made by virtual actors, the scripts churned out to algorithms cooked up by focus group and feedback loops.

As time goes on human progress is about us getting closer to our true nature, as reckless irresponsibles.  We're fighting against the social conditioning that hard work is its own reward (god knows I suffer from that more than most), so look to those least sullied by conditioning to see the truth - the kids.

Not pretty, is it?

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