28 July 2018 5:30 PM (not actually serious)
Gallons of ink have been spilled on the irreparable harm modern life has done to people's sense of connection and community. To hear some people tell it, by letting people define themselves and construct their own identities, we have unleashed unthinkable misery on the world. (Tip: If anyone starts insisting we need to restrain individualism and give people roles to fill, run away. Anyone who says “But a world focused on individual freedom is just another place to shop.” is an authoritarian.)
This seems a bit farcical to me. Say what you will about Nietzsche (Nietzsche and Zizek are really the only continental philosophers I have any time for.), but on this matter, he had it right. Here is my summary of the important point:
You find out that there is no cosmic purpose, meaning, aesthetics, or morality, and you think this is something to be sad about? Are you stupid or something? Have you ever considered what the opposite would look like?
“Wow. I really love broccoli.” you say.
“Nope”, says the universe, “In an objective, cosmic sense, broccoli tastes bad. It violates universal aesthetics.”
“Say,” says God, “Did you know that sleeping after nine in the
morning is, in terms of universal, objective morality,
“I decreed it. As my will. Some guy Bill claims that it's instead part of my character and that this is somehow different. Or perhaps it's just natural law and part of your inherent purpose. Why do you think you have any right to question it? It's transcendent.”
“What?” says the universe, “You think that's your purpose? Your purpose is tilling the ground!”
That people are unhappy from losing a transcendent, cosmic purpose from outside themselves is pretty daft on the face of it. You can only really want a transcendent purpose if you fail to think about what one would mean or look like.
If there is some vast and overarching ennui and anomie tied to modernism (rather than the more likely answer that widespread availability of food and medical care meaning that people who formerly felt miserable about starvation and dying of the plague can now have emotional problems once reserved for the rich), the decreasing cost of illumination is a much better explanation that the culturally authoritarian tripe or vulgar Marxism people usually peddle. (That doesn't mean it's a good explanation, mind.)
After all, the cheaper light is, the easier it is to stay up late. The easier it is to stay up late, the more likely people are to become sleep deprived when something (possibly their own endocrine systems) force them to get up in the morning.
What are the symptoms of modern anomie supposed to be? Vague unhappiness? Finding nothing one enjoys of finds satisfying? Everything blending into an identical haze of grey uniformity? A sense of being adrift and disconnected? It's obvious. Sleep deprivation can cause dizziness, and what is that other than a sense of being adrift in the world?