If you look at some of the largest companies in the US, companies, which used to run railroads, mines, and build cars and big engineering projects, you will now find that the biggest companies are now in the business of selling burgers, spray cheese, cholesterol lowering drugs (makes sense, huh?), premium sports packages, and until recently consumer/mortgage debt.

Excuse me, but WTH happened?

I realize that this must be the world consumers want, or at least the world they have been told that they want. But seriously, if living in a world where you spend 8-10 hours a day trying to distill liquid cheese, flipping burgers, manipulating financial risk factors, creating drug ads, or simply pushing paper and filing reports to maintain this system just to go to the cinema to see some cleaned up remake of an old movie and later spend $50+ to enjoy a good meal is your idea of a good life, you probably got bigger problems, the least of which is a lack of cooking skills.

If you fit this profile, your main problem is that you have not thought about the world itself—thinking was never part of your education. You have simply taken the world for granted and applied yourself to fitting into it. If we use the rat-race analogy, it is like rat who navigates a maze but which does not see that the maze has been intentionally constructed and that the rat is part of an experiment. I am not saying that the world above has been intentionally constructed. I see the “maze” more as the systemic outcome of the effects of many small self-interested decisions.

Several people have asked me how they can make the world a better place. A common strategy works under the assumption that there is indeed “someone/something” in control of “the system” and so they work to target that “something” in a top-down approach: Let us invent a new technology, let us write a new law, let us educate people, let us just sit here and complain about it and write manifests. Did anyone bring the Cheez Whiz?

The biggest challenge in doing this (and why you will most likely fail) is that you are competing on the same terms and being heavily outgunned, you will fail. To change the world, it is a waste of effort to engage the sharks on their turf. Fortunately, most people learn like children, that is, by emulating others. Not by listening, nor by thinking, but by emulating. That is your edge.

Hence, to change the world, simply “be the change”. If you got a good thing going, people will naturally want to emulate you. Your change must be viable (not utopian) and desirable. I think a combination of synergistic frugality and investing in the companies of the “current” economy (regardless of whether it is selling selling burgers, spray cheese, cholesterol lowering drugs,…) to leave the system is viable. With sufficient numbers, a new system will emerge bottom-up.

Originally posted 2009-12-07 12:30:31.