I wonder whether those, who were inventing virtual reality in the 90s, knew that the world was going to become a collection of bodies with virtual realities programmed into their brains. It seems to me that many of us have lost the capacity or willingness to acknowledge reality as is, not as what we like it to be.
“Focus on yourself and everything will be fine. If you are not happy, change your view. Focus on the positive. Not yet happy? Change it again until you are happy.” This is the gist of the message we are constantly bombarded with through self-help books/lectures, TV programs, talk shows, etc.
I think there are serious problems with this view. For one thing, it suggests that we should constantly ignore or eliminate anything negative on our path to happiness. Our aversion to the negative and consequent relentless refusal to confront it may in itself be a cause of our unhappiness to begin with.
This view also suggests that reality has nothing to do with us, it does not affect us, it should not. And if it does, it is a problem with us because we have lost “control” of our own views at the expense of acknowledging a reality that does not make us happy.
Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this mentality is not that “reality is not an impediment to our happiness” but its implication that “it is all about you and you alone”. So how you handle your situation is what determines the outcome for you. The result for the individual is believing in the false promise that “one is enough”. But how could it be? No matter how well we, as individuals, eat or live, our lives depend on those of others, their decisions and actions; so we may get cancer from all the radiation coming to us because of a pollution we are all responsible for. We have to seek health care, something no one can afford on her/his own. The bottom line is that we are social creatures; we cannot get by on our own.
The message for the average man is to stick to your own interest and be happy regardless of whatever around you. In other words, forget about reality, forget about others. That is not your concern because they have nothing to do with your happiness; only you can claim your happiness.
I think this is one of the reasons why, in light of so many perils that threaten us all, we have lost solidarity in facing our common misfortunes. We let social activism to vanish: each one of us is led to believe that we can be happy regardless of others. As individuals, we have some say about circumstances in our lives, some far more than others. But the threats of “austerity measures” prancing on us, ordinary citizens, in the face of enormous downpour of our money into banks and corporations is not something one person alone can face or counter. We cannot win by turning into ourselves, trying to feel positive about our lives when millions of us struggle with loss of jobs, pension, health care, unemployment insurance, … owing to carelessness of others.
The irony is that this disappearance of collective concern and action amongst ordinary people is happening at a time when heads of banks, corporations, and politics have ironclad unions, lobbying, and advocacies that protect them against all their horrible intentional or unintentional mistakes and sometimes plain crimes against the average man.
Closing our eyes to the reality surrounding us and trying to be happy regardless of what is happening around us will make some people happy, but I bet it is not going to be us, the majority. It is difficult to believe that there is not a vested interest in this quest for individual “happiness” that persuades us to turn away from each other. Who would benefit most from our sinking deeper and deeper in a lonely void believing there is a place where each one of us can single-handedly find happiness regardless of everything and everyone else around us?