Our struggle against pleasure

Today’s wellbeing increasingly comes from abstinence rather than indulgence. Smartphones halt day dreaming. Social media causes depressions. Commitments and emotional baggage stop us from developing deeper understandings. More people die from eating too much than starve.

Yuval Noah Harari writes: “Sugar is now a greater danger than gunpowder. You are more likely to die from drinking too much cola than being blown up by al-Qaeda.” Naval Ravikant says: “We are lone individuals summoning inhuman willpower, fasting, meditating, and exercising, up against armies of scientists & statisticians weaponising abundant food, screens, & medicine into junk food, clickbait news, infinite porn, endless games & addictive drugs.” Opiates of the masses — Shoshana Zuboff calls them “an overthrow of people’s sovereignty.”

People are often led to believe that the answer is more. We are pushed to add and add — because it benefits others. Esther Perel: “Being self-critical is one of the most effective tools of a consumer society.” But as Derek Sivers says: “The most successful people I know have a narrow focus, protect against time-wasters, say no to almost everything, and have let go of old limiting beliefs.” 

Humans are optimised for scarcity. Our struggle against suffering has turned into a struggle against pleasure. The secret to today’s world is to subtract from it.