“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”: the three unalienable rights granted to all Americans by the Declaration of Independence. We are all familiar with the statement, but where does this American dream stand today?

We are also aware that the system put into place to realize this aspiration is suffering. But why exactly is it suffering? Though the answer is multitudinous, it can be summed up in one word: abuse. Abuse, aside from cruel behavior, refers to the improper use of something. Abuse is misuse. And the nature of misuse in our particular system varies in form. For this particular essay, I would like to identify three of those forms of abuse: the misuse of truth, incompetency and perceived status. I believe that this is a potent trifecta, responsible for much of the woes of our culture. I also believe that acknowledging and correcting these issues could be the beginning of a cultural revolution, a necessary and fundamental change, in the way that we currently think and live.

First, let’s discuss the consistent abuse of truth: its origin, its many forms, and its impact. What is the truth? Simply put, the truth is a statement in accord with reality. Yet, if it is so simple, how has this deLinition yielded so much confusion? A philosophical misunderstanding has occurred in our modern culture, which has led people to believe that there is no objective truth. Philosophers like Foucault and Nietzsche have discussed epistemology, the theory of knowledge, at length, and this includes the meta-structure behind knowledge. They are philosophers, and this is, in part, what philosophers do. Philosophers inquire into the very core of thought, pushing language to its utter most limit. Do you really believe any one system of thought can be summarized by a single quote? Niezstche is known to have said, “There are no facts, only interpretations.” This famous line, among others, is perhaps to blame for the confusion that is encountered today. Nietzsche did not mean that there was no knowledge to strive for. Out of context this quote loses the original intent of its author, much like many quotes read out of context. What he means was that because we can only experience reality within our minds, reality is subjective and a product of interpretation. He continues to declare that we should seek interpretations that will help us, including consensus. At no point does Nietzsche ever deny the existence of facts such as “2+2=4”. He is simply musing on the deeper nature of our minds and its relationship to knowledge. And so, can a truth, a statement without bias from a sentient subject, ever truly exist? The answer is yes. It is simply easier, mentally lazy and even cowardly to claim that there is no truth, especially when justifying it with an out of context quote where much of the material relating to the reLlection is absent. It leads to a justiLication for the abuse of truth, which, as we have seen today, is extremely harmful to a society and leads to anti- intellectualism.

The truth today is misused in a number of ways. We have just exempliLied one of those ways: isolating a statement from its context and using it to illustrate one’s own agenda. This has occurred many times throughout history, including the use of Confucianism by bureaucratic China, or even closer to home, the use of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged by the Republicans. The truth can be manipulated, it can be warped, it can also be repeated until it is meaningless, it can Lind itself in echo chambers on social media where it becomes sterile and meaningless, it is exaggerated on television to grab attention, it can cater to fear or pride. We see the truth argued with ill-intention, false or ill-understood paradigms, ambiguous deLinitions, and of course through the incessant appeal from politicians, preachers, salesmen and social media users to stir our emotions, cloud our judgment and prevent objective thinking. This is done in order to gain voters, consumers, followers, it is not a neutral, objective or genuine attempt at truth.

Objective truth and objective thinking were reached during a high point of Ancient Greek civilization. Its goal was to demystify information, not just to understand why, but how. Its achievements in mathematics and astronomy provided the foundation for the European Renaissance, where the scientiLic method was reLined, laying the foundation for modern day science. The scientiLic method consists in systematic observations, measurements, and experiments: data collecting; and the formulation, testing, and modiLication of hypotheses: synthesizing. But truth is not just data collecting. For example, let’s take a look at statistics. Statistics alone have no actual meaning. Which is why people use statistics to lie, because the data has not been synthesized, and this synthesis has not be tested. Data collecting is part of what makes up the truth, but these small truths, these facts, have to be synthesized, experimented with, tested, and once again synthesized to provide us with statements, information, realities, which can be further used to better our understanding of a more general reality and how we interact with this reality. The people who have a high level of skill or knowledge in a particular Lield, the people who collect and synthesize data and test hypothesis are experts. Their expertise is the basis of their credibility in a particular Lield of study. These experts should be consulted. Our society is sophisticated, and a person alone cannot hold all the knowledge that we have acquired throughout history. Therefore, it’s important to refer to those who have expertise in a certain Lield when considering this Lield. Politicians are not experts in science; they are experts in the manipulation of the truth. Their job is to present information in order to obtain, votes. The point is that there is a goal other than the truth, to the truths that they present. Therefore… it is tainted, it is not objective. They should be here to speak for the experts, for the truth, and to rally people around the truth and engage us, the citizens, in a discussion of this truth and how best to act in regard to it. But they are not here, speaking for the truth and how to best act in accordance with it. And this negatively affects how the system works, as it is misused, corrupted in its very core. The channels of truth are damaged.

How we apprehend the truth is signiLicant. Because the truth matters, the truth is important, the truth is worth Lighting for. And what is the truth, as it pertains speciLically to our society? The truth is that, not only politicians, but corporations of many types, insurance companies, the media, learning institutions, the judicial system, to name but a very general few of the mastodons, not only have damaged truth channels, they have destroyed the humanness of this society. And this, because of ill-intent and proLit-seeking behavior, which is not in accordance with objective truth. And the effect that this has had on our system, is that it has denatured it so much, it is no longer a system for humans. It is no longer a system put in place to implement the well being of its humans. The corruption has gone that far. The system is functioning for the ease of transactions. And whether you are being taken advantage of, or you are taking advantage of, it is making you less human. Because you are not working for humanity. Therefore you are working against it. Do not fool yourselves; there are no winners and losers in this scenario. For the very simple reason that happiness is not Linite, and thus such aggressive competition is not necessary. Unfortunately it breeds itself. And this leads me to my next point, incompetence.

The second culprit of our society’s issues is incompetency. Competition for gain and incompetency are a dangerous duo. By acting for self-gain while lacking the qualities needed for effective action, there occurs not just a misuse of the system, which is detrimental in itself, but a misuse of the system which leads to more aggressive competition. Incompetency is abuse. Incompetency that breeds negativity is worse. Let’s take a look at very tangible occurrence of incompetency and its very observable negative impact, and how it leads to more negative interactions.

A landlord puts the house that she is renting out up for sale, while she is renting it out. She puts a lockbox on the door: the privacy and the right to happiness of the tenants are threatened. This is legal in Texas. The landlord did not do repairs. And that is not legal in Texas. After proving what the tenants had to prove, they legally terminate their lease. The end? No. She insists on collecting an imaginary reletting fee. So the tenants take a second step, more aggressive this time, and call the city’s code enforcement department. Not only does the city force the lanlord to make these required repairs she had refused to make, but she also loses her buyer and now her house is no longer up for sale. While waiting for their security deposit, the tenants make it clear that they will not hesitate to take a third, even more aggressive step: they would sue their landlord in the event that she did not return the security deposit. She does not respect the legal delay of 30 days, and she gets sued, for three times the amount. Her broker, her real estate agent, her property manager, her handyman, and her lawyer: all of these people were not capable of advising her to do the legal thing. Not the right thing, because we do not speak of morality, but the legal thing. The result was brutal. It was costly. This woman is a mental therapist, and a church-goer. Would you trust her with your vulnerabilities? Is she as incompetent at her job as she is at being a landlord? Who let her graduate with a medical degree? Who hires this woman to help them with their emotional trauma? Does she listen to sermons about compassion on Sundays and forget about them when it comes to “business” aka someone’s living situtation? Every single step of the way, she could have chosen to act differently, and save her self time and damages. We will never know why she made the decisions she made, and why the people she hired were all equally incompetent, but they were (who gave them diplomas? accreditations? who regulates them now?). This lack of quality enforcement is frightening. Because it’s just this one person, carrying a mountain of incompetency with her. And this is where incompetency and perceived status relate.

She thought her tenants would be scared of her title, of her lawyer’s title and that wouldn’t take the time to defend themselves. Which is why it is important to do what is necessary: suing, voting, signing petition, discussing, so that abuser do not get away with committing their abuse.

And so let’s take a closer look at issues of perceived status, such as how one’s status is thought of, and how certain people abuse their status, or what I will refer to as perceived status, which is a different problem altogether. Perceived status, is status that is perceived and may or may not be legitimate. This causes people to act based on fear and to repress the truth, against their better instinct, and their better judgment. If you know the truth, it is your DUTY, to stand up for it. It is your DUTY to stand up for yourself. You know what is right and what is wrong. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And don’t let fear dominate the decisions that you make. Be prepared to deal with the repercussions, be prepared to deal with retaliations, demotions, mockery. You’re not alone. Are you going to spend the rest of your life sinking into episodes of deep depression, or are you going to deal with reality? You, and you only, are responsible for yourself. Say what you want, say what you don’t want. And if you’re not sure, be cautious, inform yourself. Now there is a special point to make here which concerns the responsibility of adults towards children. Parents are the reason they are addicted to their tablets. Parents are the reason they’re fat and drinking soda. Parents are the reason they perceive the world and themselves in the world, the way that they do. And if you’re not ready to take on that responsibility, DON’T HAVE CHILDREN. Often, as human beings, we become used to the status quo. This doesn’t make it right, or justiLiable. Think about your impact on others. Not what others think of you. I will now close this parenthesis.

A second type of perceived status issues are issues of our own perceived status. Remember, or discover Voltaire. In his satire the Misfortunes of Candid, he satirizes endless optimism. His conclusion, his advice is: We must tend to our garden. This obsession with what others think of us has gotten out of hand. You want to be something, be it. You want to be perceived as something, that is not always your right. That is something that you can chose to Light for or not. The right to be perceived as a human being in pursuit of happiness? Yes. The right to be perceived as attractive when you’re not? No. The right to get special treatment reserved for people who appeal more to other people? No! How is that even measurable? Some people have preferences; some of those preferences are unconscious. There is nothing you can do about that. At some point, it is time to say stop. No you cannot demand to be perceived as just about anything you want to, no everyone cannot be, and will not be treated or perceived as anyone else. And thankfully so. Different people, different skills, different qualities. The truth is, is that it’s not longer your garden that you are concerned with, it’s someone else’s. Tend to your own self.

Being in a society implies that there is a social contract. And when institutions, of all types, government and others, are no longer functioning for the greater good of all then the social contract is void. Get your money back! The contract is ruptured. You are entitled to a refund. Stop the damage. Take control.

Authorities? What authority? The only authority is me. My body, my choice. My money, my decision. My time, my right. Authority means the power to give orders. If an institution cannot give proper orders or make proper decisions, it is no longer an authority. Authority exists solely because we, the people, recognize it as such. At this point I respect the authority of experts in their Lields, in their Lields, and that is it. We are not governed by experts in the spreading of well-being, we are governed by experts in deceit, self-interest and manipulation. And I say no! You do not have authority over me. Your contract is void because you did not hold up your end of the bargain. I am no longer bound by your contract. Let’s create a nation of self-aware, atheist, food growers and eaters. You have bad habits? Break them. Compost. Turn the lights off at night. And if you refuse to be responsible, then remain a slave to a headless monster running amok. We want “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. Let other people have abortions, let other people marry who they want, let other people fuck up, who cares? Mind your own business and be better. Stop accepting the perceived status. It’s all it is, perceived. It’s not real. We live in an era where nothing is real. Be real. Learn, grow and mind your own business. But when the Light comes to you, FIGHT! The truth is that you are free and you don’t even know it. Be independent. Eat better. Grow your own food. Spend time outside. Don’t ever eat in your car. Think about the reality of your human condition for a minute. And look around. You’re fat, you’re dumb, you’re sad, you’re drunk, you’re poor. Tend to your own garden. Literally, grow a garden and create a neighborhood community based on that garden, foster curiosity not animosity. Eat together, be human. Quit being so petty and jealous and insecure, get off social media and have a massive meal with other people, get out of your comfort zone. Take a joke, get roasted by your friends.

Gwendoline Courreges

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