Motivation, Postmodernism, and Change

Why do we do what we do?

This is perhaps the most unanswerable question in human existence. Countless motivators push us toward accomplishing goals, fulfilling tasks, or living productive and enjoyable lives. However, countless de-motivators dissuade us from finishing projects, reaching targets, or doing the things that are most important. To demonstrate this point, lets take a look at doing the dishes. While cleaning our vessels of consumption ranks fairly low on the complexity scale, most people on this have experienced an utterly catastrophic pile up of dishes in their kitchen sink at one point or another.

Here, the simple motivating factor is to have clean dishes for future use. However, if a person is sharing an apartment, the de-motivator is often connected to a sense of “this is mine, that is yours.” What ensues next is a cold war between roommates to passively encourage the other to clean his/her dishes without explicitly stating the obvious desire for a mutually clean and productive environment. However, some people don’t clean dishes because they are just lazy. Laziness is the bane of humanity and is often masked with cleverly disguised language or outright laughable excuses. A classic strategy for freeing up an afternoon is to call work and cite a “family emergency.” This is the silver bullet of excuses, as no supervisor will dare ask about the emergency fearing an uncomfortable response.

So, why do we do what we do? Mathematician Bertrand Russell asks a similar question, but offers an epistemological rendering: “Can human beings know anything, and if so, what and how?” In my humble opinion, human existence is fundamentally different than human understanding. Collectively, we have removed ourselves from reality and engineered social structures that endow us with information, facts, and life experiences. While these structures are “real,” they are also constructed and can therefore be deconstructed. The desegregation of the United States exemplifies structural deconstruction, but the reconceptualization of historically recognized racial barriers is more persistent and requires fundamental changes within society. Unfortunately, change is perhaps the greatest de-motivator of all.

To Be Continued…

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