The Unhappiness Machine

Unhappiness was to a large extent invented by those in power, whether religious or political leaders.  Once societies discovered that unhappy, scared people are much easier to manipulate, fear mongering and “artificially created” unhappiness became powerful weapons that could be used by anyone to either distract people or enlist them into a specific agenda.  Unhappiness became a product.  It was monetized and weaponized.

It was a rough diamond at first, but soon these various leaders learned how to extract it, cut it and shape it into different types of unhappiness that suited almost every single type of human being.  The finished product became shiny, mesmerizing, and irresistible to people.  Thanks to this evolution, today there are thousands of ways in which a human being can be unhappy.  Just turn on the TV for 5 minutes and start counting the number of things you saw which are missing from your current life. You’ll probably count at least 30.

The amplification, and monetization of unhappiness eventually became one of the founding principles of modern capitalism.  Unhappiness became an industry.  It became the Unhappiness Machine, ensuring that people are constantly feeling unfulfilled.  Unhappy people are very useful to society because they buy more stuff.  They also tend to buy the wrong stuff.  They are also more easily manipulated.  Ask any marketer or politician (they both do the same job anyway, which is sales).

The way that the Unhappiness Machine has always worked was to convince people that something was wrong, something that was making them unhappy, but that there were also “solutions” that can alleviate their unhappiness.  “We will divert the Colorado river so that you can have more water” (and our infrastructure investors can get rich).  Another variation of this was to place blame on someone specific for people’s unhappiness, to create a “villain”: “We will invade country X so that you feel safer” (and our defense industry can be profitable).

It is no wonder that today people are the most unhappy than they have ever been.  It means that our capitalist system of unhappiness is working perfectly.  Hollywood movies make us unhappy about the lifestyle that we don’t have, which stimulates the important real estate and automotive industries.  Women are made to feel ugly and old, which stimulates the massive cosmetics and IVF industries.  Our city lifestyle is so brutal to our soul, that we must take long trips abroad to recover mentally and physically, which stimulates the aerospace and hospitality industries. 

Unhappiness is vital to our civilization.  The more, the better.  Unhappiness is money.  Any good marketer knows this.  Our economic and political systems depend on keeping us unhappy and unfulfilled, so that they can continue to control us and sell us “things” and ideas. 

Without existential unhappiness, there would be neither capitalism nor fascism. Our system, our leaders, depend on us feeling unhappy and scared, so that they can manipulate and distract us from the issues that they know they cannot solve (or do not want to solve).  Their ultimate goal?  Absolutely none, they don’t have any goals.  They don’t even have these “hidden agendas” everyone is talking about in their conspiracy theories.  All they care about is simply maintaining their status, the current power structures, and existing religious and economic institutions. 

These structures are so efficiently integrated into the Unhappiness Machine that they almost maintain themselves: they have evolved over thousands of years of human civilization with the purpose of perpetuating and monetizing unhappiness.  They have stood the test of time because they run on fear, the most timeless of emotions.   They run on humans who are first and foremost scared consumers: running around all day shopping to temporarily cure their insecurities, carefully implanted by marketing messages. 

People have become too busy, too distracted by their own “implanted unhappiness” to demand a happier life from their leaders.  And they have no idea that they’ve been manipulated.  They don’t even know what happiness is anymore, so they keep on feeding the Unhappiness Machine.  Each purchase is another vote for the system that maintains their unhappiness.  Each consumer product is another distraction.  Each transaction is another monetization of their unhappiness.  

The Unhappiness Machine has helped capitalism, but it has been a lose-lose situation for humans, even for those in power: it gave people the illusion of happiness, while ripping them apart forever from the free, simple, and less stressful things that used to make them happy.

(from the upcoming “Little Book of Doom”)

George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books

2 thoughts on “The Unhappiness Machine

  1. Thank you for this essay, dear George!

    So evident and yet so easy overlooked. If it doesn’t work with the individual directly it works via the partner, the family, the friends.
    The fear not to belonging is sufficient to consume, even if it’s a stack of tacky Christmas cards. The wish not to be rude makes one attend kitschy weddings far away and spending a grand.

    I’m so excited to examine my own daily decisions now. Not too confident though I can find the strength to resist these powerful manipulators nor to erase a lifelong conditioning.

    Best wishes

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