Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Needed: a society dedicated to the care of others and the pursuit of wisdom

Cary Tennis, the advice columnist at Salon, wrote this as part of an answer to a question by a person feeling overworked and stressed and yet dedicated to a job. Cary's response rang true to me. What do you think?

"We do not live in a good society. That's another thing.

This is not a society dedicated to the care of others and the pursuit of wisdom. Wouldn't that be an amazing society? But that's not the one we have.

You live in a world that tricks you into believing that if you do what it says you will be happy. You won't. You won't be happier if you get the top spot. You won't be happier if you answer every call.

You say you work for a cause you believe in. You might be happier if you work more directly for your cause. I'm not sure what cause that is, but if it's, say, to create safer conditions for fishermen, you might be happier if you were actually fishing. Or if it's to keep the environment pristine, you might be happier if you were actually in that environment keeping it pristine. Or if it is an organization dedicated to helping people, you might be happier if you were actually helping those people yourself. That's one thing that happens with organizations, is that they alienate us from the ennobling activities they are formed to promote.

So there's that.

And this other thing is about being a person in an adversary relationship to the large economic and social forces that affect you. I grew up in a time when this was clearer. But it is still clear today.

Nothing has changed structurally; we are still a hateful, war-waging culture that denigrates women, celebrates killing, despoils the planet, plunders the resources of less powerful people, keeps a permanent underclass in virtual economic slavery and wages imperialist wars abroad. We're still the same country we were when I was growing up in the 1960s.

We just have better games.

That's it in a nutshell. The "military-industrial complex" Dwight Eisenhower warned us about had a public-relations disaster in the 1960s, when it failed to adequately sell its project to America's youth. Since then, it has learned.

The other day I was walking along wondering about the differences between people in their 20s and 30s today and during the 1960s and 1970s, marveling at the happy, well-adjusted faces I meet in the cafes and clothing stores, and wondering why my anguish and panic at our global state does not dent their cheerfulness, and also thinking about my largely unsupervised youth, unhygienic and renegade, and it occurred to me to see that today's parenting regime seems to have coalesced around the project of keeping youth constantly socialized and trained and busy so that they cannot sit around and wonder what's wrong. Because wondering what's wrong leads to troubling conclusions.

We have responded to the problem of existential anxiety not by confronting it with existential philosophy but by creating an ever-larger and more sophisticated web of 24-hour distraction and socialization training, so that young people are prevented from attaining the socially analytical skills that might lead them to see how they're being fooled. If they saw how they are being fooled they might disrupt the functioning of this system. They might go on strike. They might bring the whole thing crashing down.
Keith Olbermann the other day suggested we take to the streets. What happened? Nothing.

We don't know how to take to the streets. Besides, it looks just awful on television.

So you can go ahead and do your job, but just be aware that you are being conned. You are living in a dishonest and rapacious culture, and you are doing the best you can to make it work for you. Even those of us working for causes we believe in are working in a basically anarchic, amoral system, without the benefit of unions or workplace protections and in an economic system that has no moral foundation.

That's what we do. That's who we are. And that weird anxiety you feel from time to time, that's not a problem. That's just the truth seeping in.

You're OK. It's the world that's messed up."


Anonymous said...

Yes, I think so. I also think we don't have long to remain in this condition. Climate change is going to disrupt those distractions more and more every year from now on. Maybe that's the silver lining of it?

sexshoptienda.blogspot.com said...

Hey, there is really much helpful material above!