A few weeks back, my friend Giulia, who recently launched a YouTube channel titled Language Motions, reached out to her Instagram followers for suggestions on her next video topic. Among the choices in her poll was "The capitalist trap of useless achievements." Although I wasn't entirely sure what she meant by it, the phrase struck a chord with me instantly, prompting me to vote for it and engage Giulia in conversation. Her response? "Watch Nyad on Netflix!" Without hesitation, I dove into the film.
Nyad emerges as an extraordinarily focused and ambitious marathon swimmer who fulfills her lifelong ambition of becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida. Her journey is fraught with countless hurdles - she pushes her body to its limits, risks her life, and strains her relationships, including with her best friend who tentatively agrees to be her coach. As I immersed myself in the story, the parallels with Giulia's chosen topic became increasingly apparent. While Nyad's unwavering determination and physical prowess are undeniably remarkable, her pursuit seems driven more by ego than genuine fulfillment. It raises questions about the societal tendency to idolise individuals who sacrifice everything to attain singular, arguably "useless" goals—a phenomenon that echoes elements of capitalist culture.
Some of the underlying questions that are raised throughout the video persist: Was it all truly worthwhile? Why do we, as a society, glorify those who are willing to risk everything for pursuits that may offer little tangible benefit? Could Nyad have found greater fulfillment elsewhere? Neither of us claims to have all the answers, but exploring this topic was certainly thought-provoking. I want to thank Giulia for suggesting the film and inviting me to discuss it on her YouTube channel—it was an enlightening experience!