We Act to Save our Lives Every Day

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Marlon Brando was arguably the greatest actor of his time and perhaps of all time. One of the many interesting things about Marlon was that he despised the acting profession. In an interview on the Dick Cavett Show in 1973, responding to Dick’s inquiry as to why he resented the profession, Marlon said “I don’t think we could survive a second if we weren’t able to act. Acting is a survival mechanism, it’s a social unguent, a lubricant. We act to save our lives everyday. People lie constantly everyday by not saying something that they think, or saying something that they don’t think, or by showing something that they don’t feel.” “If you’re working for an ad agency and you hate the guy, the idea man, the boss, and you know that every time that he comes in with some impossible notion, that really makes you gag while driving home on the freeway, you know damn well that you’re not going to get a raise if you don’t say, ‘Leonard I think that’s terrific! It’s just beautiful!’ And you get a face for it and you do it day after day after day in order to survive in your job.”

Lies are the oil that keeps the machine that is our civilization running smoothly, and the cog in the machine that requires the most dishonesty from us is the workplace. We do our damndest to keep from losing our jobs every day by serving up customer service with a fake smile, taking abuse from the public, and by not telling coworkers what we really think of them. George Carlin once said “If honesty were suddenly introduced into society, the whole system would collapse. Honesty would f#ck this country up.”

Have you ever heard of the term “surface acting?” It’s essentially faking being nice when you don’t want to. The New York Times discussed surface acting in an article in February 2011 on how it is truly bad for our health. Here’s an excerpt: “Scientists examined what happened when bus drivers engaged in fake smiling known as “surface acting.” After following the drivers closely, the researchers found that on days when the smiles were forced, the subjects’ moods deteriorated and they tended to withdraw from work. Trying to suppress negative thoughts it turns out, may have made those thoughts even more persistent.”

As a result of our acting we are becoming more anxious and depressed. I read recently that the “official” percentage of Americans on psychotropic medications is 16.6%. I know that figure is an absolute joke because of my previous job, but most people will read it and assume it’s true because they do not work in the medical field where you have to view a lot of patient charts. It’s probably closer to 25- 35%, and among the elderly it may be around 40-50%. The bigger issue and concern for me is WHY would they feel it necessary to lie about a thing like that? The only thing that I can think of as to why they would mask those numbers is to provide damage control so that people will think everything is just hunky dory, and not become alarmed to the fact that we are breaking down as a society. It’s a giant red flag screaming that not only is our way of life not working for us, but is on an unsustainable trajectory. The question is how much longer can people continue along popping pills to prop themselves up so they can give society a performance every day.

Humanity has been dumbed down but in some ways our consciousness is expanding, and the days of doing mundane tasks for long periods of time with a smile have come and gone. Our grandparents were tougher than us and in many ways superior, but we are not wired like them. The people that used to get a job out of high school and work there for 40 years aren’t around anymore. We have become more complicated, more expectant and restless, and what may or may not have worked for our grandparents, is obviously not working for us. We are more anxious and depressed than ever because the need for meaning in our lives is taking precedence over raw sustenance or status. Unfortunately pills have become our pillars of support.

The bottom line is we, like Marlon Brando, are not only sick and tired of acting, we are sick and tired from acting. Bullshitting each other for our daily bread is demeaning, unhealthy, and there will never be any happiness in it. Going along just to get along is killing us. If you were to factor in the secondary health problems from anxiety and depression like hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, then damn near all of us are on something. So if you take something just know you are definitely not alone. It’s like I used to tell people; If you live in the U.S. and you’re not at least a little anxious or down, then something’s wrong with you. I will close with a quote attributed to Aldous Huxley:

“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. They are normal in not what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people living without fuss in a society to which if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.

One Reply to “We Act to Save our Lives Every Day”

  1. Why would a philosopher use passive tense to attribute something to someone, rather than actually attributing??

    In this case, the attribution to the philosopher and the work it’s from would be appropriate. Unless you don’t like to attribute quotes properly??

    – Aldous Huxley, “Brave New World Revisited”


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