What is the enemy of progress? Where does the enemy reside? Is this enemy something hiding within or it somewhere outside lurking in the shadows?
What is the Real Enemy of Progress?
Who or what is the enemy of progress? Why are our goals always just out of reach? If these questions resonate you are not alone. Find out what you can do about it.
Excellence and perfection would seem to result from progress. The issue becomes the standard which determines what is excellent or perfect. When you see how our culture spins them to manipulate and exploit then you understand the downside. So, let’s look at these goals from the perspective of those who use them.
To begin with, our culture bombards us with stories about excellence and perfection. For that reason, more people should be very successful. But that is not reality. The idea that excellence can be achieved by anyone is a common theme in our culture. In fact, professional athletes and successful business leaders actively promote this as a reality. They tell us all it takes hard work. In short, the message is that excellence and perfection are the only real goals. Doing your best just isn’t good enough unless it puts you on top. In fact, anything short of becoming number one is a failure.
There seems to be a disconnect between the message of the goal and what really happens. Next, let’s take a look at the elements of our culture. We want to see how they spin the message to exploit.
Corporate Culture and Excellence
In most companies, a good performance rating is someone with average performance. This doesn’t warrant a promotion. In fact, it is a justification for paying less. So, the goal is an excellent rating. However, excellent performance is hard because people make mistakes. So, although it is possible, it’s not realistic. More of often than not, it has to do with your level of physical attractiveness. We overlook the mistakes of people we find attractive. It’s human nature. Studies show attractive people have a clear edge at work despite all the talk about fair metrics. Then as the overall performance of the company raises so does measure for average performance. In other words, an excellent rating last year is only average this year because average performance has risen.
“To pursue a goal which is by definition unattainable is to condemn oneself to a state of perpetual unhappiness.”― Emile Durkheim
Very few achieve excellence. Excellence and perfection are temporary states. However, companies use them as an effective carrot. It keeps people working hard to achieve the goal. This is good for the bottom line. After all, that’s how to maximize your human resources. However, it’s not so good for long-term health and wellness of the employee.
It’s important to realize that the policies in place are there to protect the company. For instance, policies like non-compete clauses, and intellectual property rights are obvious safeguards. However, even the policies around discrimination and sexual harassment are really to protect the interests of the company. They protect the company against lawsuits of its employees. But, that’s okay. People are expendable.
Perhaps the enemy of progress is also greed? Are the goals of excellence and perfection have a short-term effect. People think the goal must be reachable. But, in the long-run unrealistic goals are not motivators.
Scientific Discovery and Perfection
Scientific discovery is the driving force of our modern world. And, the scientific process is at the heart of these achievements. Science is an agent of change. It moves the technology of the world forward, seeking and finding solutions. In fact, some claim that science and especially mathematics are the only true measures of perfection. This may be true but this isn’t what we are referring to. Science and math are processes. What we are talking about here is about human endeavor, a person’s efforts, and labor to attain a goal. Human excellence is about achieving a standard or goal, whereas, science is about finding solutions.
Some people use Thomas Edison’s light bulb as an example of excellence. However, he did not invent the light bulb. Actually, it was the improvement on previous versions which made a more marketable version. Therefore, it is the product of continuous improvement. The application of the scientific process. So, this represents the process of continuous improvement, which is progress. Science is not the enemy of progress.
Religion and Perfection
Religion a major part of the cultural narrative. Its impact increases when it dominates society. The dominant worldview is the Abrahamic tree which has more than 3 billion members. It certainly benefits from promoting perfection in a special way. It uses the fear of the unknown as the key. In Western culture, it promotes the ultimate intangible product, the afterlife.
Here’s how it works. First, create a need and then provide the solution. The need created is fear of life after death. You see this afterlife concept has both good or bad outcomes. There are rewards in the afterlife if you become a follower. This is heaven. But, if you don’t follow their religion, then the result is eternal torment in Hell. This concept isn’t new. It a combination of earlier religions from ancient Egypt, Babylon, Persia, and Assyria. The rebranding of this idea is the bedrock recruitment and retention tool of the Abrahamic traditions of Semitic origin including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
You find perfection by becoming a believer. However, you also need to pay your way. To remain in good standing requires some monetary indulgence to ensure your place in the Afterlife. In this worldview, you achieve perfection by becoming a follower.
“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is really fear.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
So, in reality, these cultural narratives are based on fear and greed. These never lead to progress and this is clear in the history of the dark ages. This when these belief systems ruled much of the modern world. Organized religion is an enemy of progress which comes from any other source such as science or logic. Western organized religion is the originator of groupthink manipulation tactics.
Popular Culture and Excellence
The quest for excellence is a constant message in popular culture. The quest for excellence takes on many forms. You see it in organized sports at all levels. Baseball and football are where star athletes show off their talents paid for by advertising. Boxing and martial arts are where physical prowess and brutality are socially acceptable forms of entertainment. These are just examples of how the quest for excellence pays monetary dividends in a cultural narrative driven by greed. It all goes back to Greek and Roman cultures. The Olympic Games and combatants in the Roman coliseums are attractions. And, attractions distract us from paying attention.
“The coveted perfect life is a created standard which is purposely unattainable.”
Excellence is all that counts. Being first and winning is all that matters. Those who cannot excel are unworthy. These “games” exploit the human fascination with human conflict. Thus, cementing the roots of the cultural narrative in our base instincts of domination. The popular culture benefits by raising up a few who excel. These are examples of what you might become if you buy their products and ideas. The goal moves higher as more people come closer to the goal. And, so the standard for excellence becomes more difficult to achieve. So, our popular culture is also an enemy of progress. The higher the standard or goal the less it becomes attainable. As a result, the unrealistic goal becomes a barrier a disincentive to most people. Why chase a goal which is always out of reach?
Personality and Perfection
All personality types are prone to the effects of the cultural narrative. For example, let’s look at Enneagram types one and three, the reformer and the achiever. By the name of these types, you can see why they find the goals of order and achievement irresistible. As a result, you’ll find large numbers of these types in leadership positions in both business and religion. And, you don’t become a leader by questioning the cultural narrative. So, you must learn how to promote their messages without questioning the underlying motives.
Also, the more you expose yourself to the programming the more invested you become in the ideas it sells. This speaks to the power of propaganda. It also demonstrates how groupthink manipulation can exploit the thinking of anyone. It has nothing to do with intelligence. Propaganda works molding thinking and values. And, it triggers underlying obsessive-compulsive personality disorders (OCPD). This is where someone develops excessive concerns for excellence and perfectionism. It shows up as a relentless work ethic which dominates their lives. Of course, there are people at the top of their fields who do not fit the OCPD profile. Not surprisingly, this disorder is actually an asset in the workplace. Workaholics climb the corporate ladder using any tactics they can muster.
So, it really isn’t our personality that is the issue. It’s how it is the culture exploits it. Our personality is only an enemy of our progress if we don’t understand it. However, we can learn to understand these mechanisms. We can resolve this with proactive inner work through tools like the Enneagram Personality Profile. More about this tool later when we talk about solutions.
The Cost of Perfection and Excellence
It doesn’t matter which category of performance you choose. If you look at the superstars in almost any field, you’ll see achieving excellence is a life-consuming effort. In fact, it’s probably appropriate to classify it as an obsession. And, this doesn’t lead to satisfaction. The costs of being an overachiever are steep. First, by working longer and harder your physical health and wellness will suffer. Overachievers often suffer from depression because perfection is hard to sustain. Stress is the modern world is the reason life expectancy is actually declining in the USA. Second, overachievers families always pay the price of absence. In the end, it’s the advertisers and corporation are the real benefactors. In the end, your achievements add to the bottom line and provide justification to raise the performance bar for everyone.
Solutions to Overcome the Enemy of Progress
Can you relate to any of the categories above? Are unrealistic goals the real enemy of progress? Is the Enemy of Progress unrealistic goals which exist in the cultural narrative? Are our efforts to reach unattainable goals benefiting someone else? If so, what do we do about it?
Above all, it’s essential to identify the sources of cultural programming. Make a list of the sources and the time spent. Putting it in writing will help you see the level exposure.
Here’s an example of identifying these sources. Let’s say you work for a corporation. In most cases, companies have policies which govern specific guidelines of behavior. This means people need to monitor their behavior and conform to these standards. It’s like acting in a play all day. This is the essence of behavior modification. So, working 50 or 60 a week is a huge level of programming. Then, if you watch TV for 3 hours a night, that’s around 80 hours of cultural programming. This isn’t uncommon. It becomes invisible because you are exposing yourself continually. As such, it becomes a habit. You don’t see the programming that is going on.
Here is a list of the main sources of cultural programming:
- Corporate and school environments
- Western Organized Religion
- TV programming especially news and religious programming Religion requiring weekly meetings
- Cultural events especially those which promote organized violence
- Relationships which reinforce the cultural narrative
- Social Media
Second ― Remove and Minimize
Moreover, it’s important to cut out or minimize your exposure to cultural programming that you’ve identified. This can be difficult. It means making conscious choices and changing habitual patterns. Changing patterns is hard work. Taking a two-week vacation once a year will not overcome the programming. Removing the source is best, but not always practical. So, minimize your exposure as much as you can. Minimizing your exposure is key. It provides time and space for you to do positive things.
One of the most difficult things to do eliminate or reduce are unhealthy relationships. Sometimes the people who are closest to you are reinforcing negative stereotypes and ideas. Also, sometimes these relationships directly affect key work contacts. There is no easy to do this.
Social media is a new source of groupthink manipulation programming. Beware of what you consume and how much. Social media is very addicting and time-consuming. It’s a good practice to reduce your social media use even if you think it is positive. You don’t want to miss your real life. Social media is linked to higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety, depression, narcissism and decreased social skills. In fact, 60% of people using social media report it has a negative impact on self-esteem. 50% report associate negative effects on their relationships because of social media use.
ThIrd ― Reprogram
Engage in active reprogramming of your thoughts and habits. This too is hard inner work. The cultural narrative in Western society is a thread of bias and prejudice which touches almost every aspect of life.
By all means please include the study logical reasoning. There is also a suite of companion tools we highly recommend, spotting logical fallacies and the logical axioms. Using these tools will help you determine fact from fiction. The Enneagram Personality Profile is a tool which gives us insight into personality, and instinct. Using this tool will help you understand how your basic thought patterns and desires are default settings. And, you have the ability to move beyond these limitations.
Fourth ― Planting seeds
Do what you can in your sphere of influence. Be a change agent. In other words, expose negative bias and prejudices when possible. Speaking up always involves some personal risk. So, be mindful of your situation. Be careful. Speak up when and where people can accept your words. It’s important to realize that extremists will protect their belief systems with violence. With this in mind, you must learn to guard your words and actions. Be vigilant, but not violent. Plant seeds of truth and facts. They may not accept them. And, you may not see them blossom. However, they often take root and sprout later on. More and more are questioning the cultural narrative.
The enemy of progress would seem to be how the culture uses excellence and perfection. These goals are tools which exploit and manipulate for profit. As a result, we need to be aware of the tactics and do what we can not to become victims. What do you think?
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