Humans are like cancer cells

373 words • 1 min to read

The other day I read an article that compares capitalism to cancer. Many have made the same analogy, but this one goes deeper.

When cancer kills its host, it dies too. But tumor cells are shielded from the rest of the body and don’t realize that they rely on it to survive. Similarly, each generation of humans born under capitalism is indoctrinated with the idea they must seek constant growth. Always striving for more wealth, fame, and status (or productivity, as a proxy to all three). We rarely consider our impact on our environment—the disasters and trash we produce are out of sight, out of mind.

Unlike cancer cells, we have reason. And yet we still uphold a system that we know will kill us in the end. We just secretly hope the system won’t collapse during our lifetimes. But even if we completely ignore the catastrophic potential of climate change, the system must still change. Because even if it stays the same, it’s already bad enough.

At 26, despite doing well financially, I’m not satisfied. I feel guilty when I try to enjoy quiet time. Our outlook on leisure has collectively shifted from ‘be productive to go on vacation’ to ‘go on vacation to be more productive when you come back’.

Some of my friends have moved abroad for better jobs. To see my best friend, I have to wait until summer each year. Our system pushes us to relocate to richer places, scattering groups of friends apart. Not that moving is bad in itself; it’s just often not a choice you make to improve your living conditions, but one you make to survive.

This is not the good life. Most of us crave connection and friendship. So, how could we possibly hope to live well, without the thing we want the most?

I didn’t choose this cancer. I was born into it. Yet, I’m complacent. My self-worth is tied to my productivity. I only feel content (for a short while) when I make something I find worthy of praise and respect. But, judging by how animals and other primates behave, this way of thinking is probably not natural. And if it’s not our nature, then it must be our nurture.