Have we created a monster?

Life as we humans have created it over thousands of years and live in most parts of this world has something antibiotic, i.e. against life, about it. What is meant by this? If we think about how much time we spend doing gainful work to earn our living (one could also think about this designation), it seems that nowadays we do not work to live, but rather live to work, and the trend is increasing.

There is such a great imbalance in this world as well as in our individual lives that, intuitively, cannot be natural. On the one hand, there are many people who have working hours that only allow them to get barely enough rest, not to mention time for other things they want to do. They are able to support themselves financially, but not even able to do much more. And on the other hand, there are people who are struggling to have just enough to survive, who want to work but can’t get a job. They can’t do much either because they have to worry about finances, food, and survival. (Of course, there are also cases between the extremes). So, it seems that some are working for two or three while others don’t even get to work? Those who have the goods to stay alive don’t have the time to live and the others have the time but not the goods? Isn’t there a middle way?

Many years ago, people started to settle down, build houses, farm, and build more and more of a (world) economy. And it goes on steadily. It seems that everything we ever have is never enough. We have smartphones, cars, houses, etc., but we need bigger, smaller, faster, and so on. To get there, we (as humans) need to perform and work, but at what cost? We will never get where we want to go, there is always something that could be better, smaller, bigger, and so on – there is always more profit to be made. It has long ceased to be about providing us with what we need to live, to live well. It has long ceased to be about the living, rather it’s about the inanimate such as money and the power of those who have it.

This is neither healthy for the world nor for us. We are getting sicker and sicker – physically, mentally, and socially. That’s a high price to pay, and that’s not all – think about it: For all we know, we have to assume that as human beings we have only this one, finite life, and to spend it predominantly in a rush of achievement, attainment, earning and providing seems like a waste of that life – especially when there is not even enough time (and/or energy) left beside it for joy, play, love, creativity, self-development, seeing, hearing, feeling and being – for living.

Life should not mean work and work should not mean hardship, pressure, and burden. Working – understood as being productive and creative – is a part of life (any life – even the smallest microorganisms actively take care of their survival and we humans have always hunted and gathered for food and built for shelter), but it needs to be balanced in itself and with all other aspects of life.

So, I’m not arguing that development, innovation, and activity are bad things per se, but they should not be mainly about profit and power, but about us as humans, as individuals and as a community. Above all, we should develop positively as a human race. And life and all its parts should be in favor of living.

The questions that arise and that we need to think about are therefore: Is, paradoxically, the price of the way of life which we have created and which is supposed to sustain our lives, life itself? Is there a way out of this paradox? The point is: not only did we get ourselves into this mess, but the way of life as we have created it now seems to be a self-runner, and to stop it – to defeat the monster we have created – we need a huge shift in our thinking, in the way we deal with life and the way we make things (and ourselves) work – towards a balanced way of living.

COVID-19, the moral thing to do.

I have some thoughts I want to share about the current situation regarding the corona virus outbreak happening all over the world. Not only here in Austria the government has initiated measures such as to prohibit leaving our homes – with certain exceptions and rules, i.e. buying groceries or going for a walk while maintaining a distance to others of at least 1m (if sufficient at all?). Therefore a lot of people stay at home, but there is also a significant number that do not.

It seems some people just do not see the importance of these measures. Maybe some of them are afraid of giving up their freedom – as for sure many are, whether they stay home or not. The fear of loosing our freedom surely is of meaning and absolutely understandable considering not only Austrias national-socialistic past. This is why I hypothesize that it is healthy not to feel comfortable with limiting our own freedom, because it shows awareness of yourself as an individual – among other things and mechanisms. I’m certainly not saying you should give up your fear, or rather your wish for freedom.

What I want is for you to consider that our own freedom ends where the freedom of another starts. And analogically, our obligations start where rights of others emerge and vice versa. People do have the (human) right to live as well as the (human) right of not being harmed (in German: Recht auf Unversehrtheit). Also, one of the basic principles of biomedical ethics is to do no harm. If you go outside to live on your social life and to act out your freedom you are interfering in these rights of other individuals. Especially of the ones who are older or have underlying health problems – such as people who have asthma or your grandparents, for example. By doing so you put their lives and welfare and those of the healthcare workers out there at risk. How can any healthcare worker help you or me or anybody if he or she is exhausted to an extent that he or she needs care or gets sick, mentally or physically?!

Frankly, you don’t have to be ok with the state enforced limitations, but please consider shifting your focus from defending your own freedom to protecting the safety of others for the time being, because it is our moral obligation to do so.