To cut to the chase: I hold that a society or culture entrapped by a perpetual need to achieve, to endlessly generate quantifiable outputs, to obsessively ‘progress’ – slippery term that – is a society most likely to exhaust and dispirit its members. For rather too long, that’s pretty much the position that has been reached.
The emblem and motif of such a society is the treadmill, and the force that drives it, fear. These afflictions affect adult and child alike, trapping both in a perpetual circle of unremitting striving. It continues without cease – no sooner has one goal or objective been achieved, than another looms into view demanding satisfaction. Performance is all. Repose is nowhere allowed. We are required to be strivers. Welcome to the club that should have no members.
The symptoms of this malady are everywhere about us: the child who from the earliest age must be made learning or school ‘ready'; the sales assistant – most likely on a low or minimum wage – as well as the classroom teacher, now both equally performance assessed; the parent frantic to get their child into a ‘good’ school, the better to ‘achieve'; the school shackled to anxiety about their place in the performance league tables; the voluntary organisation, now formally contracted to provide quantifiable outcomes that do not easily mesh with the substance and purpose of their undertaking; the business executive tethered to work 24/7 via mobile phone or tablet and driven by targets. And so on. The list is long. Continue reading