09-21-11 - Four Myths

I believe that the modern white middle-upper class male is highly susceptible to these four myths.

1. "Stay out of it". Politics is a mess. It's frustrating. It's largely controlled by corporate spending and the outrageous emotional ideology of fringe crackpots who scream on talk radio. What can you do about it? It's better just to stay out of it. Sure, Fox News is telling insane lies all the time and shouldn't be allowed to mascarade as news, but what can you do about it? Sure, Corporations should not be counted as people under the 1st ammendment. It's just too frustrating and gives us a headache and distracts from our work. So let's be good consumers and go back to arguing about universal remotes and make some more products that people don't need.

2. "Happiness". One of the great mythical movements of the last twenty years or so has been a sort of spiritual glorification of the pursuit of happiness. Atheists who are increasingly disillusioned with the idea of doing something "significant" with their lives are grasping for a central concept to build their lives around, and what they have found is "just be happy".

I believe this is worth restating. Human beings need to believe that their life is for something; that there is a purpose, something to base your actions on day to day, that you're not just ticking off time until you die. Modern ultra-rational man finds it hard to believe in the purposes of older days; obviously religion is out, but even things like "write the great American novel" or "make a difference in the world" are hard for cynical modern man to build his life around, because he starts thinking "what's the point of that really?", all it does is make other people like you, maybe it helps other people but what's the point of helping other people really? This reductivist reasoning can destroy any "life purpose". So after several crises, modern man finds "happiness". I should just do what makes me happy.

Now, the "happiness" pursuers don't just go and do drugs and party or whatever; if you are aware of the happiness movement at all, it's somewhat sophisicated in the sense that it is looking for longer term deeper happiness, which might come from connection to your community, or building something with your hands, or traveling somewhere you are a bit afraid to go, etc. But the reason for it at the core is not doing something for the world, it is entirely selfish.

Because this modern happiness movement is somewhat more sophisticated than plain old gluttony and self-indulgence, it can be a bit hard to see, but in fact it is still exactly what the ruling elite want you to do. They want you to focus on your self, not on the world around you. They want you to avoid difficulty that might make you unhappy. They certainly don't want people dedicating their lives to changing the world or making it a better place.

3. "Identity Liberty". There have been substantial political gains in individual liberties in the last forty years; and there is more freedom and acceptance of "alternative lifestyles" and identities. While this is good, and I don't want to diminish the importance of greater rights for The Gays or whatever, it is really a side issue that has taken center stage. When you ask a liberal how you think the world has done in the last 40 years, they will inevitably bring this up as the major positive.

The things is, the ruling elite really don't give a rats ass about "identity liberty". It's a distraction. It's a gladiator fight in the colliseum to keep the rabble occupied while they keep raping you. They don't give a shit about gays or abortion or any of that shit. They care about the structure of power. And while we are fighting about whether there should be a Native American monument at Little Big Horn they have been putting wall street bankers in power at Treasury, the SEC, Fannie, the Fed, etc. They have been giving corporations greater power than humans or countries via NAFTA, Citizens United, etc. There is no more check on executive power or journalistic oversight. The entire congressional law-making process has become a joke.

It's like we're squabbling over the 2 men from Australia and they've just locked up the 7 bonus armies from the Americas. The most important thing is the structure of power, because the capacity for liberty flows from that.

4. "Meritocracy".

bonus : 5. "Anti-unionism".

... I got bored of this post. I'm gonna go watch TV and drink beer. Rugby world cup is on, woot!


nothings said...

"So let's be good consumers and go back to arguing about universal remotes"

Longest comment thread you've had in ages!

Miles said...

RWC!! Nice having it in my time zone for a change.

Who are you supporting?

Thatcher Ulrich said...

What is the meaning of life? I was thinking this through the other day. Not surprisingly, I didn't solve it.

I think you are taking a "minimize suffering over all consciousnesses" approach. The happiness people I guess are in the same framework at least, "maximize happiness in my local consciousness". Both dealing with consciousness+experience. I'm not totally satisfied with the framework though.

cbloom said...

I think I actually disagree with the whole concept of optimizing for the feeling of "happiness".

old rants