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The Year of Snakeoil

We’ve reached 2013. Despite doomsday prophecies – and their variations that we’d all be instantly enlightened.

Most people will only start trickling back to work from next week. Today was my first day back at work however. I was on leave for almost two weeks. All in all, 10 days of no work-related responsibilities.

The break was fantastic. I feel well rested and I managed to get a lot of personal things done that I’ve had to put off for months. Of course, I didn’t get through half of what I wanted to and now, responsibility calls yet again.

Last night, while driving home from my last film for the holiday, a thought struck me. Even though I felt ready to give the next two months all I could, I realised just how absurd this pattern really was: work 5 days a week, get home on the weekend, try to balance rest and fun but don’t get much of either because there are so many things that you want to do… Then – back to work. Where you waste away all your time doing things you “have to” in order to try to earn enough money to be able to afford to do the things you want to.

We all know this person (possibly even a friend): you go out for drinks, they overdo it. Completely. But it’s okay – they have a KGB pill. They can just cancel out the effects of their overindulgence. Or, you go out for supper and they eat like a pig. But it’s okay, because if heartburn sets in, there’s ENO. There’s a whole market of neutralising or cancellation drugs catering to this kind of behaviour. For fixing you; getting you back to normal when you do things you know full well you oughtn’t have.

Here’s an idea: don’t drink too much…

Isn’t it a dismal state of affairs when we’ve reached a point where our personal time (who does the non-personal time belong to, by the way…?) is spent intoxicating ourselves (by various means) as close to oblivion as we can, to a point where we need to use equalisers to get back to normal? That, is clearly not normal.

But even worse, is when this pattern actually becomes our lives and governs our existence.  Weekends become the carrot at the end of the stick to keep us going, because they’re never long enough to actually fit in the things that you really have to (not talking work, I mean like cook a healthy meal) and then have enough time to add the things you really want to. Thus, at the end of each year, everyone takes their “much deserved” break for a couple of weeks (if you’re lucky) so that we can start the new year afresh. Afresh, in this case, being something more akin to brainwashed – “This holiday made it all worthwhile!” And then you start the drudgery again.

Companies keep selling us this promise; this template. They keep dangling that leave-carrot in front of our noses. And we keep falling for it.

It struck me as nearly laughable when I started thinking about the fact that one reason I’ve been reluctant to give up this job, is because of the supposed certainty of the salary that I will get. Money that I need to pay for my regular visits to a psychologist. One of the primary reasons I need regular visits to a psychologist, is this job… Binge drink, KGB. Overeat, ENO… You see where I’m going with this?

So much of what we do in life is simply fighting the symptoms of something or other. Yes, the symptoms are ultimately where we feel the influence of things most directly, but as any doctor will tell you, fighting the symptoms merely gives you (temporary) relief. It doesn’t get rid of the problem. And the only way you can get rid of the problem, is if you address the problem.

I was reminded of the anecdote about the Dalai Lama having been asked what thing about humanity it was that surprised him the most. His response was,

“Man*… Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

EDIT: * Again, it’s a big pity that so many people are quoted referring to “man“, when they are, in fact, talking of humankind or humanity. This patriarchal notion is sadly so deeply ingrained in all our cultures, that even respected people like the Dalai Lama fall into the trap every so often…

2 thoughts on “The Year of Snakeoil

  1. Thanks, Henriel, for this insightful piece. It’s true what you write here, humanity (in most cases) have become idle, in that they have been brainwashed to ‘solve’ their
    symptoms, and ignore the true cause of that particular disease!

    1. Thanks for the comment 🙂 I really believe that this kind of behaviour, this inability to take responsibility for our own actions, is the root cause of almost every single evil in the world.
      People just don’t seem to want to face the fact that sometimes, they might have to give up something they like, in order to get something they need.

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