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Posted by Philip on 25 October 2013, 11:30 am in , , , , , , ,

What effect is our fear of missing out having on tolerance, acceptance and generosity?

I've been reflecting on a situation a few months back where, accidentally, I got into the wrong lane to go straight ahead at a multi-road intersection. Despite indicating to move into the correct lane, no-one stopped to let me in. I had to turn right and then find a place to turn around and double back.

At a similar time, Campbell Live did a story on people pushing in to turn onto the motorway at Gillies Ave. Police were targeting and ticketing motorists for this "offence".

Add to that the fact that, at Walt Disney World in Orlando, people were caught renting disabled people in order to avoid two hour queues. Mind you, if looks could kill, when I went to Disneyland in 1992 and we were told by staff to jump the line of long-time queuers, I'd have been dead very quickly. It was pretty awkward.

These incidents beg the question of whether, in the last 20 years, something has broken in society. Given NZ's relatively small population, if we're so sick of queuing that we make it an offence to push in, how will we, not to mention countries with ten to 100 times the number of citizens or more, end up in the next 20 years?

If something's broken now, it's going to be decimated in the next couple of decades.

Thinking about it more deeply as I type, it occurs to me there are probably two busted things. I'm no environmental economist (if there is such thing) but it seems, firstly, that demand has overtaken our ability to efficiently gain access to goods, services, roadways and the like. Secondly, our capacity for tolerance, patience and generosity has significantly decreased.

It is well-documented that scarcity drives capitalism by ensuring that "what people can afford [doesn’t fall] short of what they need, [as] increasing output to satisfy the latter would cause prices to fall — to the detriment of profit."

It's my belief that this constant barrage of subconscious capitalist messages about scarcity has created a chronic collective culture of fear of missing out. We are in a perpetual state of reptilian fight to ensure we don't miss out on getting something or somewhere because someone gets there first.

If we're in this constant frightened mindset, ensuring we don't miss out, how can we be tolerant and accepting, let alone generous? Having regard for others increases our chances of missing out, so we continue to battle to keep our place in the queue or, better still, to push in and improve our vantage point.

I've become aware of this playing out with more and more voracity lately — as well as, I confess, noticing myself joining the collective psyche, particularly while driving. So I am also being more conscious of giving up the fight and fright, and letting others go first.

When it comes to the crunch, what we are actually going to miss out on, more and more, is the opportunity to connect, relate and co-operate with each other...before we die.

 

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