Do you think that you're doomed to a life of constantly being unsatisfied if you don't agree with many of the distinct qualities of your culture?
I've recently been reading articles and listening to podcasts that, either directly or through summarizing the works of others, critique capitalism and modern Western culture as a whole. As someone who has been living abroad now for a few years, I've had enough space to view my culture from the outside and a lot of the things that I've felt but couldn't articulate have been expressed really well through these materials. I wouldn't say that I've bought wholesale into the "capitalism is the antichrist" mantra either but I find a lot of the critiques from a sociopolitical perspective to be quite poignant. Now I've barely scratched the surface when it comes to these topics but I haven't been able to reconcile the issue I alluded to in my original question.
So much of participating in a society is understanding its culture. The way people get the news, whether colleagues get a beer after work, what they do in their free time, how people date, etc. Some of the critiques I've read of American culture for instance, posit that most people nowadays will work their 40 hour job, come home each day exhausted and look for something to do that's low effort so they can wind down. Nothing wrong with that of course as it's arguable how much of that 40 hours we're even productive. So you'll come home and see what's new on Netflix or tune into your local news and then maybe watch some random TV until it's time to sleep and start the cycle over again. The point being that to participate in society, you typically need a job so you can feed and clothe yourself while also having some kind of shelter. This requirement tends to leave you in a state where you're too exhausted to do most of the stuff you'd ordinarily want to do if you had more free time and energy. The weekend comes and you might get your slice of freedom and then it's back to the grind. Most people won't find much fulfillment in this cycle but it's the only thing they know. And at least in the US, you're told that that's "just how life is". Welcome to adulthood. But this usually comes from people who also only know this way of life. It's like this protestant, capitalistic guilt-trip that everyone has to go through.
I know that at this point, this might be coming off as an angsty teen revelation. "Society is the problem man!". But I'm not suggesting that we all go live in a commune and forego possessions. Some alternatives are already being discussed: UBI, reducing work hours in general, etc. One problem that capitalism has, or at least the oligolopy that exists in the US has, is that its primary goal is profit and tangentially, in my opinion, technological advancement. If we were all willing to collectively say: "Look, all of these technological advancements we have are great but I would be fine if things progressed slower", it would actually make sense to work less. Because with the current state of technology, we don't need to work as much as we do to have the things we actually need. Need being the key word here. Not want. But capitalism thrives on consumption so people are constantly told either directly or indirectly that they need X, Y, or Z to feel fulfilled. You hate your job? A bet a nice cold beer would take your mind off things. Are you tired after a long day? Take these pills. You get worn down from the entire system and then the system tells you to consume to feel less shitty again. And the cycle repeats.
So say you want out of that. As an individual, this is doable. You could reduce the amount of social media you consume. Spend more time focusing on things you actually want to do. Stop buying so many pointless things so you don't need to work as much. I mean people make entire careers of telling you how to do this so I won't waste your time here. You get the idea. But even though this is something that you as an individual can accomplish, you'll frequently clash with what this culture expects of you. You have few possessions, live in a small apartment, buy things secondhand, and don't have Netflix? Most people can't really relate to that. Or you can be the quirky one in the your group of friends. You don't use social media much so if events are organized solely through Facebook, I guess you'll miss out on those. You'll still stick to your principles and accept that you'll miss out on certain things.
But this can definitely become an issue if you get into a relationship with someone who doesn't share those values. And the odds of that being the case when your options are people from that same cultural sphere are pretty high. And it changes even more if you decide to have kids in that society. Your partner could meet you halfway and you guys get along fine but your child won't even have the cognitive capacity to understand why you live the way you do for a long, long time. Why don't they get all the new stuff like their friends? Your life just becomes this constant struggle. This scenario maybe sounds a bit hyperbolic but it doesn't sound unrealistic to me. So I'm left thinking what I asked at the beginning: Will I live an unsatisfying life by basically fighting against core tenants of the society I live in?