VIDEO-The Thinking Disease | a.nolen

When I was 23, I found a job that really ‘sucked me in’ and changed the way I viewed the world. I did research for a financial firm, which is a misleading way of describing it– ‘financial intelligence’ is closer to the mark. My boss would have me dissect industries: look at how they were set up, by whom and with whose money.

The techniques which I used are similar to those that the FBI uses to ‘map’ organized crime networks. I would map out capital flows between the 15 largest firms in an industry, or which companies share directors. After a few years of this work, it became clear that there’s not much competition in strategically important sectors of the economy.

In fact, strategically important sectors of the economy are driven by political considerations, not economic or ‘efficiency’ concerns. A consequence of this is that information which is painful to deal with is usually ignored until it’s just too painful to keep ignoring it. An example of a painful reality is Peak Oil, the inescapable fact that higher demand and plateauing supply without viable alternatives equals ugly, ugly, ugly.

While I was engrossed in my work and loved it, there was a price to pay. It became difficult to relate to the other newly-grads, who didn’t understand that market forces rarely guide the market or that their 80-hr/week  job at Sachs was really just government subsidized larceny. The circle of people I could relate to became smaller and smaller– and older and older– until the median age of my ‘real’ friends hit 50. (I kept a circle of twenty-somethings that I’d could ‘girls night out’ with, but such outings were always an exercise in hiding the fact I was, basically, an NYC-based prepper.)

Another drawback from finding out as much as I did as early as I did, was that I didn’t really have the emotional equipment to deal with it. Things looked pretty damn dire and there was no likely hope in sight. When my good job finally ended, I didn’t have many options to improve my quality of life: I had graduated with enough debt to keep me needing a $50k+ until I was at least 40, and that’s if I wanted to live with my parents the whole time. I didn’t have the option– or I didn’t see how I had the option– to get off this frightening, Sex-in-the-City inspired carnival ride and do something which I could live with, let alone feel good about. There were times that I wished a bus would just hit me.

And that, readers, is what I call ‘The Thinking Disease”. “The Thinking Disease” is not a disease– it’s perfectly healthy response– but it is a painful condition. It’s the stress of understanding there’s a problem without knowing how to tackle the problem or even having your concerns validated by other people (largely because they don’t want to think about something that’s hard to deal with).

You may not be worried about where the US government is going or plateauing oil resources, but almost anybody who is knowledgeable about something will at some time despair over crazy, short-term policies or preventable problems.

I’m not a genius, there’s a lot I don’t know. But at 23, I knew enough to understand that political and economic life as we know it– India to Indiana– is not sustainable and the people we trust to lead us, academia, ‘experts’,  the government, etc. are, usually, completely untrustworthy. The first few years after finding out that the world view I’d been brought up on was designed to keep me from protecting my own interests– those first few years were a nightmare of freeze/flight/fight. What do you do? Nobody had the answer, not even my 50 year old friends.

So, in a public-minded spirit, I’m going to share this PeakMoment video, because while my views are unorthodox, they are by no means unusual and there may be other people who are struggling with the question: What do I do?

Disclaimer: I am leery of psychology as a science; as a rule I like data sets not data points. I don’t endorse all the people/ideas Dr. Kathy McMahon brings up. I think this video is useful if readers take Dr. McMahon’s observations as those of a well-meaning acquaintance. She makes many observations that resonate with me and I feel these may resonate with other people who’ve contracted “The Thinking Disease”.

To end this all on a happy note, I’m much older now. While my opinion on many things hasn’t got any rosier, I know now that there are ways to live well even in the midst of  decrepitude– you’ve got to use creativity and prioritization to find them. In fact, sometimes pervasive rot makes it easier to identify those things which make the work of living worthwhile. It’s also worth remembering that this too shall pass.

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