The Purpose of Life: Assimilation into the Borg Collective?

I’m quoting this Hundertwasser idea (below) because I’m interested in human purpose and creativity.  I don’t think we’re meant to be deconstructed into cogs in the Corporate machine, obedient and defined by tasks, job descriptions HUNDERTWASSER_ART_CENTRE_MODEL_16X10and money.  That is Modernity gone mad. I think the corporate machine is an example of a rationalised insanity, not unlike the rationalisation of Moonies or the Jonestown cult, a form of Assimilation into the Borg Collective, and I think one day people will wake up and realise.

I have watched from the inside public departments shift from engaged, ethical, thinking, civil service spaces where mavericks and the odd brilliant eccentric could find a home, to a hierarchical managerial power game with petty types counting meaningless and distortionary beans to suit the meanest of minds, who were promptly promoted.

Citizens not customersAnd I wonder what is the effect of that extension of Corporate thinking and economic reduction of life to a dollar; what it actually does to not just the people who work in these places, but also our people, Te Tangata, the citizens, the public – oh, pardon me – the ‘clients’, the ‘customers’, the ‘consumers’ – mere objects upon which we act, defined by their cost or revenue generation, not their souls, their qualities, their values, their creativity.

hundertwasser-toilet-031 (1)
Friedreich Hundertwasser – the Austrian artist and designer of classics, including our own Kawakawa public toilets (the only Hundertwasser in the Southern Hemisphere) and of the proposed Whangarei Art Centre (which is a beautiful idea looking for funding) – had a view on at least one of the effects of this Corporate stifling of the human experience.  David Dale, in his lovely book Essential Places: a book about ideas and where they started, asked Hundertwasser why he thought the Austrian suicide rate was so high. Dale writes (p 81) ……


He said it’s because of the prevailing conformism of the populace and the determination of the State to regiment every aspect of life: “When you take away the impetus of creativity of every citizen, then people tend to think they are not needed, there’s no demand for their ideas, and they become apathetic. Most suicides come from apathy. ….. You don’t have to think.”

I know nothing about suicide, but I think that living without a purpose is, well, meaningless. That is tautological, surely. Purposelessness is purposeless. And if you reduce meaning to the accumulation of money, or power, then I would have to ask what meaning you place on the value of money, or power.

And please don’t try to convince me that such people “create value”.  A Highest purpose to inspirepoet creates value with the beauty and depth of imagery and metre; a person who makes the lives of others richer in meaning and joy creates value; those who inspire; those who lift the damaged soul; those who heal a landscape and makes it hum with all the richness of life and resilience create value; an artist who holds a mirror to the world, a philosopher the same, a great scientist that deepens both our understanding and our appreciation of this universe we live in creates value; those who heal people and soul and open our eyes to different ways of seeing; those who show us what tomorrow could be.

What life did you exchange for it

Some may create value and generate money. I have no problem with that. Some artists even make money!  But I see a lot of big Corporate activity that is essentially extractive and degrading, especially in my field of rural land use systems and provincial communities.  Rather than creating life, they exchange life for money.  The lives of others.  The life of landscapes.

I don’t see their point.  Why would you be part of that, even if you were on a few million a year?

Unless …. power and money are the only consolation for a glass ego?  Is that the alternative to suicidal thoughts?  Dominance?  Control?  The manic thrill of pillage?

Empty eyes.jpeg

A friend once told me his old school colleagues who had since retired to Wanaka after lives as Corporate lawyers and accountants had “empty eyes”.

What is the point of a life that ends with empty eyes.

Chris Perley


Chris Perley is an affiliated researcher at Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability with a philosophy, governance, research, management and policy background in provincial economies, rural sociology and natural systems.

About Chris Perley

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4 Responses to The Purpose of Life: Assimilation into the Borg Collective?

  1. Greg Hart says:

    Fantastic article Chris. Love it and love you for writing it!! It’s the way I see it too.

    My purpose in life: Evolving in service to life.

    I’ll put some photos on the family farm facebook page soon, as I spent a bit of time this evening just “hanging” with the animals. The diversity, the health, it just felt very right.

    Our focus is to optimise life not optimise $/ha

    Peace and love


  2. Marion Thomson says:

    Excellent post Chris, it resonates so deeply with me as well. It makes me think of TS Elliot’s poem…..
    We are the hollow men
    We are the stuffed men
    Leaning together
    Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
    Our dried voices, when
    We whisper together
    Are quiet and meaningless
    As wind in dry grass
    Or rats’ feet over broken glass
    In our dry cellar

    Shape without form, shade without colour,
    Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

    I met this poem in High School and won an oratory competition when I presented this and my analysis ! Wow that was a long time ago – some many many years, some things stay in the memory for ever.
    My mission of late has been to study more of the wonderful principles of kaupapa māori as for me they contain deep and incredibly insightful methods of progressing society in a positive, inclusive and nurturing way within a gesture of unconditional love.

  3. john says:

    technological singularity is coming…be ready

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