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12

America and Its Discontents

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of common unhappiness

(missing author)

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by Gary Greenberg

? (2018). America and Its Discontents. The Baffler, 41, pp. 12-18

16

This therapist-led decoupling of the personal from the political has been much noted, and mostly lamented, by scolds from the right and other schoolmarms, and I don’t wish to follow in their path. Rather, I would just point out that behind both the affirmative and the dour views of our interior life lurks a question that has been haunting us since the Enlightenment: now that God is dead and priests are just men spouting superstition, now that we’ve taken matters into our own hands, just how are we supposed to live with one another? Now that everything is permitted, now that rules are whatever we make them to be, how can we tame those evil spirits ourselves? Implicit in the therapeutic answer is a bet—the same bet that lies behind science and democracy and free market capitalism: that we are self-limiting creatures, that given freedom and self-knowledge and the opportunity to express them, we will be able to ride the long arc of history toward progress.

But, as Dr. Phil might ask, how’s that working out for you? Not so well, it seems, at least not if you are living in Trumpistan, where those Enlightenment virtues look like political correctness and globalism and the elitism of the effete, where the invisible hand gives you its back and reason tells you that your moral standards are only so much prejudice and science insists that the car in which you drive to your shitty, low-paying job is making the ice caps melt. In this blighted province, even if you have never set foot in a therapist’s office, even if you see the profession as a vast snowflake factory, you have absorbed the truth of the therapeutic: that grievance is always justified, that the victim always has the high moral ground, and that if you are frustrated or worried or despairing or otherwise discomfited, then that means you have been robbed of your birthright. Because you were put on this earth, or at least in this country, to pursue happiness; if you can’t even dream of that anymore, then you are entitled to redress. And if the channels through which redress is achieved are closed off to you, then perhaps you should hitch your wagon to a bulldozer intent on carving out a new one.

i like the phrasing (and the concept)

—p.16 missing author 4 years, 2 months ago

This therapist-led decoupling of the personal from the political has been much noted, and mostly lamented, by scolds from the right and other schoolmarms, and I don’t wish to follow in their path. Rather, I would just point out that behind both the affirmative and the dour views of our interior life lurks a question that has been haunting us since the Enlightenment: now that God is dead and priests are just men spouting superstition, now that we’ve taken matters into our own hands, just how are we supposed to live with one another? Now that everything is permitted, now that rules are whatever we make them to be, how can we tame those evil spirits ourselves? Implicit in the therapeutic answer is a bet—the same bet that lies behind science and democracy and free market capitalism: that we are self-limiting creatures, that given freedom and self-knowledge and the opportunity to express them, we will be able to ride the long arc of history toward progress.

But, as Dr. Phil might ask, how’s that working out for you? Not so well, it seems, at least not if you are living in Trumpistan, where those Enlightenment virtues look like political correctness and globalism and the elitism of the effete, where the invisible hand gives you its back and reason tells you that your moral standards are only so much prejudice and science insists that the car in which you drive to your shitty, low-paying job is making the ice caps melt. In this blighted province, even if you have never set foot in a therapist’s office, even if you see the profession as a vast snowflake factory, you have absorbed the truth of the therapeutic: that grievance is always justified, that the victim always has the high moral ground, and that if you are frustrated or worried or despairing or otherwise discomfited, then that means you have been robbed of your birthright. Because you were put on this earth, or at least in this country, to pursue happiness; if you can’t even dream of that anymore, then you are entitled to redress. And if the channels through which redress is achieved are closed off to you, then perhaps you should hitch your wagon to a bulldozer intent on carving out a new one.

i like the phrasing (and the concept)

—p.16 missing author 4 years, 2 months ago