I walk a lot. More than the average. Walking in the city is beautiful experiment. The landscapes change, the people change, the neighbourhood , the atmosphere… Everything is different each time you reach a street corner.
Montréal brings another layer to experience with its underground city. Some believe it is just a big mall, some (like me) believe it’s a futuristic connection of tunnels. The “mall” part is actually just a portion of the whole underground city.
Sometime I find myself immersed in a rushing crowd. This is an interesting thing to observe. I realized that most people tend to be in a rush. They rush to get to their offices, to get their lunches, to go back home at the end of the day. You can feel this stressed energy in their movements.
And the most surprising realization is that a majority of people don’t walk on escalators (this is what this post is about). You can see them running out of the metro station and suddenly they stop as soon as they reach the first aluminium step of the escalator. Nothing prevents them to continue to walk. It is not even difficult to walk on the stairs of an escalator. It’s made to be walkable, right? I do walk on escalators everyday, I know what I am talking about.
There is a real social awkwardness that I notice here and I think it’s an involuntary metaphor of our world.
People want to be carried by the system. I call this the “escalator syndrome”.
It always make me think of this scene from La Haine (my favorite French movie – you would have to watch the whole thing if you want to really appreciate and get it – really, watch it! I believe it’s a good movie to meditate about in this Occupy World Street time of History - ask me if you don’t know where to find it).
It took me several years to realize what I wanted to do with my life. I had been zombified by the perspective of surviving so I did what I “had to” do and let the system decide for me. The system is cool because it can pretty much decide everything for you. Like an escalator you can just stay there and you will get to the top platform. Just make a step… wow, watch it, it’s moving… grab the handrail (I recently learned that it is illegal to not use the handrail) and that’s it… wait, no that’s not it. In some airports they have a signal with a robot voice and a flashing light to warn you before you reach the end. Probably because some people filed charges against the airport for not assisting them until the end.
What happens if you let the system carry you? You don’t go as fast as if you walked, you don’t get exercise (some people actually pay a gym to walk on a machine that goes in reverse but don’t walk when the machine goes forward; that is really strange) and also you look like a sheep doing exactly what everybody else does.
Instead, I have decided to walk with my own energy and use the system to enhance that energy. I honestly believe that the guy of invented the escalator did not picture people staying but people walking on it. This guy is not the one to blame.
I believe it’s the same with the socio-politico-economic system we live in. It was made to enhance our actions and to allow us to act and perform better in a better and more harmonized way. But instead of that we decided to be lazy and we got used to be driven. There is a real terrifying misconception here and the metaphor can be transferred to many aspects of our lives.
So here is the plan :
-Identify: what aspect of me is being driven? Do I count on something the system gives? Do I consider that for granted? Am I just following the rule without trying to get the most of it?
I’ll take my education as an example. I’m a software engineer, the system gave me a diploma and this is what is written on it. It really is a piece of paper certifying that I spent 3 years in a building listening and doing what I had been told to do. I can take this diploma for granted (I know many people who do that) and get a job that I don’t like and get payed for something I don’t really know how to do. If there is one domain that evolves quick, I believe it is programming and a lot of new technologies have emerged after my graduation. I can’t rely only on my diploma if I want to innovate. What I learned is old.
- Erase the system from your mind: What if the system did not exist? What if I was not allowed to be part of it?
I met a guy one day. He was 18, I was 26. And he knew a lot more than me about pretty much any kind of programming. He did not went to any engineer school. This young guy involuntarily taught me that only me can teach myself not the system. If there was no engineering school, I would have to learn by choosing books, study them, practice, trial and errors, etc…
- Use the system to enhance: from mixing the 2 above points, we can get something even better. I’m not here to tell you that society is wrong and the system is evil. It’s not true. What is wrong is the way we experience it. What do I get when I add what the system gives me and what I can do by myself?
I’m learning and programming with iOS and Drupal on different projects. (I believe my writings are some kind of programming too, but this will be for a future post). I realize my brain can digest the books I am studying with more ease simply because I have some good basis in programming. I could have started from scratch but that would have taken more time (but I could have done it). What the system taught me is being used as an enhancement for what I do now.
Every day I analyze my actions with this in my mind.
There are so many things we take for granted: water, electricity, money, health, jobs, shelters, cars… So many things to analyze and that can enhance our actions if taken for what they really are and not just “normal”.
Are you / were you affected by the escalator syndrome? What makes you independent? Do you have examples of how the system and your personal actions get enhanced? Please tell your story in the comment section.
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