02/05/2014 12:56 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2014

The Devil in the Pie Chart

It's a thoroughly stupid, weirdly inelegant way to exist, isn't it? Contrary to nature and time, insulting to the very dignity of the soul?

Yet here it is, the single most toxic, fossilized, hammered-down maxim our culture -- along with most of the barely civilized world -- lives by, pounded into our fundamental ethos since birth.

Nope, it's not organized religion. It's not a sad misunderstanding of love. It's not wisdom, loneliness or even rampant tribalism, nationalism, unhealthy worship of technology or celebrity. Oh, it's far worse than that.

Do you know this toxic law? I bet you do: Companies will do anything to accomplish it, cities obsess over it like a dark religion, populations are viciously addicted to it -- and of course, capitalism has it tattooed onto its very heart, a blood-soaked dragon of relentless, nearly unendurable pressure, sneering and cruel, only fully satiated when it's burned everything to the ground.


Of course you know it: It is the maxim of furious, nonstop growth at all costs. It is the vast, overarching demand that everything we humans create, produce and desire must keep growing and expanding, adding to and complexifying, without stop and without fail because to pause, to slow down, to contract, to calm the hell down even for a moment, means fiscal doom, cultural irrelevance, death.

Ergo, the ruthless mantra: More product! More stores! More bodies and more customers and a fatter bottom line, expanding the brand into 127 new countries in 2014 alone! New tract developments, new buildings, roads and sprawl, bigger families, bigger workforce, larger tax base, more drilling, fracking, sucking, ripping out the planet's guts to satisfy our insatiable need for energy because we can't stop now and we can't imagine any other way, even though this way leads directly -- and I mean directly -- to our perfect demise.

My favorite example of the moment? Here is Apple, perhaps the most amusingly admired, debated, storied company in modern existence. Apple just announced that it sold an all-time record 51 million iPhones in the last few months -- which, if I'm calculating correctly and I'm probably not, is about seven phones every second, or about 150 in the time it took you to read this paragraph.

Oh, they also sold a record 24 million iPads, 4.5 million Macs, generated $57 billion in revenue ($13 billion in net profit) and now control 42 percent of the smartphone market, up from exactly zero just seven years ago. "Astonishing" doesn't begin to cut it.

Do you know what happened next, right after Apple's amazing announcement? That's right: The stock price plunged nearly 10 percent. Because Wall Street is diseased and insane. Because Wall Street is full of tiny-souled, cackling man-demons who measure human existence the way the devil measures time: in units of potential pain.

See, Wall Street, employing its trademark rule of grow-or-else nonsense, thought Apple should have sold 54 million phones, not just 51, and therefore they think the company might have peaked and might not continue its stratospheric growth into the next year. In short: Apple made billions of dollars and outpaced itself in every category, but it still wasn't enough to feed the dumb, ravenous beast. It never really is.

But why stop with just Apple? Here is Facebook, doomed to die... eventually. Here is Google... same. There was Motorola, Microsoft, IBM. Starbucks and McDonald's, WalMart and Coca-Cola, Ikea and Whole Foods, too. There is Spain, China, India and Africa. There's the Catholic church, the Mongols, the invading force, the conquering heathens, spreading their dogma, their brand, their tedious seed, as if it somehow matters, as if that's the whole point, as if that's all there is to life and you just gotta deal with the inevitable pushback, the forthcoming ruin. Hey, it's the nature of the system. God, what spiritual infants we are.

Worse still, these entities are followed around like rabid dogs by pious economists, politicians, prognosticators, all barking out a dire warning to any country, company or government who might wish to break the golden rule of growth and instead downsize, simplify, cut back. "Are you insane? Do you want to lose tax revenue? Wall Street support? God's love? We're humans. More work, more babies, more revenue, more unsustainable growth is what we do." This is the message. This is the rule.

You can see the absurdity, no? More importantly...

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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate, and the creator of the Mark Morford's Apothecary iOS app. He's also a well-known ERYT yoga instructor in San Francisco. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...