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Setting aside sociological implications of identifying as a human being first for the moment (though it is my primary contention one cannot be successful and do so), we can see that while various portions of humanity profess adherence to other values, as a global culture we measure success in terms of finance. Those who achieve some measure of financial success generally desire more, creating an addictive cycle that leads to ever increasing inequality, unto the present where a few individuals control more wealth than the bottom half of humanity.

As is true between individuals, so is true also of nations, as national leaderships are composed of individuals who excel at governance: that is, promising the greatest goods (not synonymous with good) to the greatest number in an effort to enlist support for increasing their political power. The wealthy cultivate those who curry favor with them for their mutual benefit. To that end de-education of the populace becomes a necessary tactic, and social/financial success can be cashed in for political power: Reagan, Schwarzenegger, Trump— Kanye West for president (+Kim Kardashian first lady).

Such a process leads to extensive suffering, and not just amongst humanity (we'll get to that). This, in spite of the fact that more does not necessarily lead to greater happiness, outlined by the sociologists who authored

The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger

They cite studies indicating wealth beyond the income equivalent of 75K/yr US (if memory serves) does not appreciably add to one's satisfaction.

That’s a pretty amazing finding. Let’s take $100,000; that’s a 33% wealth increase, yet no appreciable satisfaction increase. Ditto $250,000; a million, ten million, one hundred million, a billion, ten billion… no significant increase in happiness.

Does it lead to a longer life-span? Again, not so much, only to a degree; healthy lifestyle is more a personal choice not related to level of income. When your time comes all the money in the world won't buy an extra minute. When one rates the US health system against others it fails the test, as it does the US on several other parameters as well (child mortality, education etc), while being the strongest national proponent of more $=more happiness.

So on a purely individual level, the definition of success that valorizes unlimited financial accumulation fails for the vast majority. Now, to the really dysfunctional aspect of defining success in this way; when we observe the affect of the collective of humanity as a whole, operating on this principle.

In a culture that runs on fossil fuels (not cattle, sheep, sugar, gold, slaves, opium, cotton, or whale oil, the base commodities that ran previous eras), those who are 'successful' according to our current measure of wealth control the greatest power. They are least inclined to suggest, augment or impose changes that might lead to a diminution of their situation, by that same measure. Adherence to this self-definition of value weighs more heavily in their minds than scientific findings, hence they engage in misinformation (parading charlatans before the public who offer delusional conspiracies) and disinformation (green-washing that offers promises to give the appearance of doing something, assuring "Nothing to see here, it's all under control") in an effort to perpetuate the system that upholds their privileged position.

While the science is clear that continuation of business as usual under current trends will lead to an uninhabitable planet for all or nearly all of humanity (along with most of the creatures we claim to be fond of) within a century or two, this is beyond the lifespan of those currently holding power, so they feel pretty confident kicking the can down the road onto future generations.

Of course the Earth responds to physics, not promises, and the affect of humanity's civilization upon it is leading to tipping points beyond humanity's capacity to control: 1) Warming oceans and melting tundra release massive amounts of methane into the atmosphere, 80 times worse than CO2 in terms of heat-trapping over several decades; 2) ocean acidification from increased atmospheric CO2 content along with warming and overfishing leading to the death of coral reefs and overall diminution of life in the seas, depended upon by a large portion of humanity for sustenance; 3) ice sheet disintegration leading to rising sea levels (80% live within 60km of coast), disrupted weather patterns (floods, drought, crop failure), loss of albedo effect (accelerating warming trend), possible stall of the salt pump that drives the gulf stream ocean current keeping Europe and North America’s eastern seaboard from freezing; blazing forests; etc.

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I prefer democracy but nature doesn't care. I personally have white privilege in my society; nature doesn't care. Similarly nature doesn't care what I think about my political system, good or bad, religion, color etc., how many cars or houses I own.

The methane released in the sabotage of the Nordstream 2 pipeline will have an affect, as will the leakage from increased use of methane as a 'green' fuel, increased emissions from war and militarism, emissions from more coal plants coming online in China and India in their continuing process of industrialization in competition with the West, perpetuation of use of the internal combustion engine, the burning Amazon, etc.

The Earth is one system; these issues cannot be solved in isolation by one individual, or one nation.

Redefine ‘Success’

In light of these facts it would seem a more functional re-definition of success is called for, on a personal, national, and global level. This will be difficult without re-connection to a larger identity than that offered by the “money=happiness + my tribe(religion/nation/ethnicity) over others for our mutual success,” definition that currently predominates, in personal and national affairs.

People will cling to what they have if not given the opportunity to embrace a superior alternative. So what is a more intrinsic, functional basis for identity, that could engender recognition of physical reality and cooperation beyond tribal signifiers?

Note that, aside from using it once at the opening of this essay, while I have used 'humanity' several times as a collective noun I have not used 'human' once. 'Humanism' is a triggering word to those wedded to religious signifiers, but most would agree they exist. From this the argument can be made that we hardly know ourselves.

Maybe your Dad gave you a car on your 16th birthday and taught you how to drive, but that doesn't mean you knew how to build one, or how to fix it. When you are sick you probably go to a doctor. The doctor may not know everything, but because of their study of the human body they may be able to help.

The point is, while we are each in the process of experiencing our lives, there is still a great deal we have yet to discover about ourselves.

With our minds ever engaged in pattern-making of sensation of the phenomenological world, we have relatively little direct experience of the life itself that resides within us. Such experience, of the reality of which we are constituted, is available; not a philosophy (language coded thought forms, that generate more thought forms), but an undifferentiated sense of the experience of being alive, the experience we all share. Such direct experience of life itself is more fulfilling than the $=happiness treadmill.

Know thyself. From this, priorities shift, and alternative decisions, more in harmony with our actual circumstance, appear possible.