I have a confession:
I don’t want to participate in society.
I’ll go a step further: there’s a significant part of me that hates society.
I’m just one guy, but I’m guessing there are more than a few others who feel like I do. Here’s a look at what’s fueling my rage.
I don’t want to participate in society: 10 reasons causing it
1) I don’t feel invested in society
The main reason I don’t want to participate in society is that I don’t feel invested in it.
I pay taxes, I get healthcare and I drive on roads, but I don’t feel emotionally or ideologically interested in society.
I see it as something to take from, not something to give back to.
Because in my heart I don’t feel aligned with society or its values and goals.
That’s me being brutally honest, and I’m not saying it to make myself look good or pure, either.
I know it’s kind of a selfish, shitty thing to say, particularly given the immense sacrifices of previous generations to win the freedom and prosperity many modern societies now enjoy.
But let me just say:
I’ve lived outside the West in warzones and Third World countries for years at a time and I actually preferred them because there was more of a sense of community and solidarity.
For me, modern society’s problem isn’t that it’s not “good enough,” it’s that it’s spiritually empty and overly random and fractured.
If that makes me privileged, so be it.
2) I feel a lack of community
If I had to focus on one negative sensation that I get from modern society, it would be isolation.
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I feel alone when I walk the streets of my hometown in Canada, or even when I say hello to people I know.
I feel that I’m living a separate life which only occasionally intersects with the lives of others.
This brings up feelings of depression, anger, and futility inside me.
It makes me lose interest in communicating with others or participating in society in really any way other than the necessities of work and basic functions.
I feel like a number, not a name.
3) I don’t feel there’s enough meaning in society
On a related note, I just don’t feel there’s enough meaning in society.
The best time I’ve ever had was volunteering in the Republic of Georgia near Russia. I taught English in a small village where everyone had a group spirit, shared core beliefs, and a more traditional outlook.
But when I’m in modern society I feel a lack of all those things. So I tune out.
I don’t romanticize past ages when people died at 30 and had lungs full of black smoke after a day in the fields…
But at the same time, I think that as society industrializes, modernizes, and becomes completely capitalized it loses part of its soul.
Sociologists back that up and authors like Sebastian Junger in his book Tribe explore very well how our sophisticated modern societies are gutting our souls and fraternal ties.
Society has become too streamlined, abstract, and unjust, according to Junger.
Our tribal brains just can’t put the pieces together. So we gin up partisan conflicts or find things to get angry about: because deep down we feel a huge lack of that group belonging that’s so core to the human experience.
4) I feel society has bullied and excluded me
I grew up in Waldorf education where we had a more arts-focused curriculum and various beliefs that don’t align with modern society.
This included not watching television and a focus on playing in nature and celebrating seasonal festivals.
After Waldorf when I entered the public school system I was subject to quite serious physical and verbal bullying for a number of years.
After public school, I went to a private school that my grandparents paid for. The teachers were better, but the rich students would give anyone at a juvenile delinquent facility a run for the money.
The exclusion and feeling of not fitting in continued.
It enraged me, not so much because of the cuts and bruises but because of the humiliation and exclusion it represented.
Since then I have overcome the victim mindset that I inhabited for many years, and have used it to fuel my passions and contribute instead of feeding my hate.
But nonetheless, I fully admit that the bullying made me lose respect for many members of society and their behavior.
This includes when I look at many former bullies today and see how their cruel and stupid tendencies made them a perfect fit for their current high positions in finance, business and everyday society of all types.
Not exactly a ringing endorsement…
5) I believe society is designed to exploit people
I’m not an anarchist, nor am I any easily definable label (at least none that’s fit to print here).
But what I will say is that my perception of modern society is not complimentary.
It appears to me that our systems of commerce, education, and social dynamics are built in many ways for exploitation.
It’s not just economic exploitation, it’s social:
I see how gender is weaponized to turn men and women against each other, how social and racial movements are used to manipulate people into violent ignorance and how politics is used to steer people like cattle.
I’m not “above” all that by any means.
If anything, maybe I’m a typical self-righteous part of it.
But the point is I don’t like it, and I don’t like seeing how even me buying products at the supermarket is feeding into a global system of environmental and economic exploitation.
6) I don’t agree with either political ‘side’
My social and cultural beliefs are more on the right, which immediately puts me at odds with the majority of my generation at least in the US and Europe.
But on economics, environment, and foreign policy I tend to side more with the left.
This makes me a person without a party since I find the left unpalatable for its social positions and the right problematic for its embrace of global capitalism.
The result is that I don’t feel a sense of belonging (or logic) in the partisan politics of modern society.
I’m extremely interested in politics and have written about them and reported on them extensively, including the 2016 US Presidential election, but I just can’t throw my hat fully in the ring.
There’s too much behind the scenes that’s made me cynical.
7) I’m drawn to religion and spirituality but I also sometimes find it fake
To add another paradoxical item to the list of why I don’t want to participate in society, take the following:
I’m drawn to organized religion and public faith as well as spirituality.
But I also think it can become very fake and over-simplistic.
I’m not just talking about feel-good New Age stuff that tells you your dreams will come true or that living in the present will unlock the universe for you.
I’m also talking about established religion and its promises that there’s a greater force looking out for all of us.
Sometimes I’m convinced it’s true, but other times I feel like I truly don’t know.
And this insecurity makes me waffle back and forth and lose interest in the kind of group ideas about the supernatural and spirituality that exists in society.
An idea I had as a teenager that I often think of is the idea that “God” is a dynamic aggregated force which synthesizes, absorbs, and redirects all human experiences and lives for the greater evolution of a mysterious ultimate goal (perhaps enlightenment, victory or peace of some kind).
Still, I find so many people’s discussions of religion and truth to be so basic and lacking in real curiosity apart from stale narratives that I simply lose interest.
8) I believe society’s pressures are destroying the possibility of relationships
This could fall a bit under the victim narrative portion of things, something I firmly want to ditch.
Still, I do think it can be important to sometimes note that you feel outside forces are making certain parts of life more difficult.
One of those areas that’s become a nightmare is relationships.
Of course, it’s not like people in the 1920s just woke up and found the love of their life without batting an eyelash.
But I think the toxicity between the sexes these days is at an all-time high.
People in more established communities end up with those of their community or faith and everyone else is every man or woman for themselves.
The result is antidepressants and Netflix.
Women feel rightly angered at men who won’t commit or play with their emotions, and men feel left behind by women who they think don’t need them anymore or will trade them for a better option soon enough.
It’s really a vicious cycle and I’d love to say I have all the answers.
9) I detest most of the popular culture and entertainment in society
Another reason I don’t want to participate in society is that I hate most of its popular culture and entertainment.
Again, this is not about me being “above” it or more morally pure.
I just think most of the most popular music, films and TV coming out of Western society in at least the past three decades is pure toxic shit.
Sure, there are some good things out there.
But even eye-catching and well-written shows, for example, are often full of so-much subtle mindf*ckery that I can’t get over it and just enjoy them.
Growing up without TV I dreamed of the day when I could watch what “all the other kids” were.
At first, I gorged on it. But now I’ve reached the stage where I see my mom was right all along.
This modern culture is toxic shit. And I don’t want a part of it or the society that produces it.
10) I don’t feel at home in my own society
I guess it goes without saying here, but I don’t feel at home in my own society.
That’s part of why I left: living in the Caucasus, Central Europe, the Middle East, and now South America.
Have I found my perfect utopia? By no means…
But I have found societies that are still a bit more intense, heart-centered, and community and family-oriented.
I miss my family back in Canada, but I don’t feel at home there culturally. I just don’t relate to the way of life or the type of attitudes and ideas of the mainstream society.
Making long-distance relationships last as a digital nomad isn’t easy, and neither is dating in other countries.
But I’d prefer that to stewing in my own juices in a basement somewhere cursing about how I feel out of place or unneeded.
It’s not something I want to commit to, so I left.
Can you really ‘leave’ society?
The thing is, did I ever really “leave?”
Sure, I’m currently in another country and I managed to carve my own path somewhat.
But I’m still subject to the law, paying taxes, living in a house, and turning on the TV to see the same Hollywood content recycled and gobbled up by people over here…
I think that the idea of fully leaving society is an illusion.
Even survivalists who pack up everything and go off-grid are still in society in a certain sense.
Wherever there’s a group of people, there’s a society.
And so I think that for me the problem is not society, it’s modern corporate society.
This gives the opportunity to reformulate my ideas about what society is and how I can find a place in it or change it for the better.
The best way I’ve come up with is to…
Start with myself
I have all sorts of things to say about “society” and why I don’t like it, as you can see.
But I also have to admit that part of my anger is just avoiding the simple truth that nothing will change unless I change myself.
Begin with yourself. Stop searching for external fixes to sort out your life, deep down, you know this isn’t working.
And that’s because until you look within and unleash your personal power, you’ll never find the satisfaction and fulfillment you’re searching for.
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