Add to social media the noise of work, with back-to-back meetings during working hours resulting in too many people doing their ‘real’ work in personal time. The constant audible ‘pings’ as inboxes fill up or you are notified that you have another text massage. Think about it, just how often have you rang someone for them to pick up, only to tell you that they are in a meeting and will ring you back once it is finished? Why pick up? Why not just let people leave a message?
But this way of being hasn’t come about by accident. To understand how this happened we have to look at the policy settings of 40 years of accelerating neo-liberal ideology. A key policy setting has been to pretend that all problems are a result of individual choices, individual actions and individual failings, thus diverting attention away from the social settings of institutions and government responsibility.
A perfect example of this is seeing unemployment as an individual failure, and, as such, all unemployed people should be punished by keeping them impoverished. But also, it is a mistake to see wealth as deserved because it is ‘a result of hard work’ (a statement repeated ad nauseum but contrary to all available evidence).
Pushing problems such as cost of living, status, health, anxiety and mental health, unemployment etc onto individuals, as an individual choice, further reduces working memory and hence their agency in relation to the larger problems such as the climate crisis. Pretending that success in life is solely the result of personal choices and failure is the hallmark of personal deficiency absolves the government and business of their responsibility for social and environmental problems.
Another policy setting has been to encourage people to spend, Spend, SPEND to ‘ensure that there is money in government coffers’ while at the same time reducing taxes on high earners and business. It is in the governments best interest to encourage Black Friday, Singles Day and Cyber Monday etc. So on top of social media, work noise and lifestyle noise many people have also developed survival anxiety, diverting our capacity to think long-term, as they worry about levels of personal debt.
All this noise’ is eating into our working memory and we need our working memory to think through the consequences of our actions and complex issues. Are you beginning to see the problem here? When are we going to demand something different from our institutions? Too many of the current voting generations are completely indoctrinated into personal responsibility and choices; we will not solve the climate problem by changing our light bulbs and recycling our rubbish.