Stormclaws (top photo)
My wife Catherine posted a little video the other day, questioning the concept of self-esteem. Her comment on it was “I don’t think I’m better than anyone else.” Which is a crucial philosophical humility recognizable to every person of sincere faith, and also to every genuine leftist of any stripe. It’s called standing with the meek (or proles, if you prefer). What followed calls for a response – but to be clear, this is still not my promised ‘boomer post’ – which I yet lack the margin of blood-pressure-safety to execute. This is just a quick take on one key aspect.
One objection was that the author of the video has also said offensive things (true). But we all know Hitler was a vegetarian and a dog-lover – anyone who thinks that this fact is relevant to vegetarianism or dogs, is invited to put on one of those funny cone-hats in the back there – no, the pointy-side goes UP!
Despite our tribalist obsessions, an observation is correct and/or useful or not, completely independently from other observations made by that person. Malcolm X, who said some of my very favourite things ever, also said some really vicious and unhelpful stuff, before he’d effectively metabolized his anger and experience into wisdom. The one does not dilute the other.
The idea that individuals have an absolute right to feel great about themselves is held by a strong majority in the boomer-cohort. The really weird thing is that they claim this right no matter how many other people they have hurt, taken advantage of, or behaved dishonourably to. Me is me, and me is great – period.
For the generation before them, and a great many in the generations since, there’s a very simple way to characterize this attitude – it’s called sociopathy. Selfish evil.
The central problem is the consumerist mindset (empowered id?) displacing the idea of principled responsible citizenship. Every great wisdom-system in the world points out that wanting too many things too much is dangerous to our soul, because it ends up swallowing effort and emotional energy which rightly belongs elsewhere. Not just for the sake of that elsewhere, but also for our own healthy balance as human beings.
There are now a huge array of philosophies derived from the idea that each of our individual cravings is intrinsically important. Juvenile nonsense. When we’re at this stage of artistic development, a wise teacher will often suggest “try to put more emphasis on what you can see, and less on what you feel and think!”
This isn’t being mean – it’s simply saying – you’ll get better results if you pull your head out of your ass, because that’s not an interesting view to anyone else in the world. What you can reveal about the world that they can also see, is a far more helpful and respectful offering to your audience.
Self-esteem is naturally produced every time we do something which is helpful to others. If we’re not feeling-it, it’s probably because we’re living in a way which doesn’t involve enough of this helpful contact and relevance. This is key feedback, like most forms of unhappiness and many physical conditions. This feel good-bad feedback system is a part of our makeup, because it has empirical survival value for the species. The signal we’re supposed to be hearing (and paying attention to) is CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
There really is a serious wave of mass unhappiness which can be objectively demonstrated this century – whether we’re going from sociological data or simply on the basis of the huge numbers who are now seeking prescription (and self-medication) relief, on an ongoing basis.
We are also quite broadly aware that we are a ruthlessly competitive and blindly-consumerist culture that is working very hard to bring about our own extinction, in the mid-term future. People who don’t understand the mass anger and unhappiness which are manifesting in so many scary ways lately, may have convinced themselves that there is no link. Personally, I think it’s absolute and obvious. Working as hard as you can to murder your grandkids is INSANE. Feeling great about yourself while burning-down the world is disgusting.
WE ARE SUPPOSED TO FEEL BAD, UNTIL WE STOP THIS GRAND SUICIDE-PACT!
Quite simply – no, we do not really deserve to feel like deeply good responsible adult citizens until we turn this ship around! (Nor could we possibly fail to feel fantastic, in achieving this).
Roots and shadow
Of course, there are many large corporations which would like us to keep up the false-smile, keep eating like crap, shopping mindlessly, not exercising, never making deep committed friendships for which we easily and happily sacrifice, and taking a nice big expensive handful of blunt-instrument medication daily to ‘correct’ for every last metabolic and emotional imbalance which we ourselves keep creating, with our childish stubbornness and profound alienation.
But already, the antidepressants available can’t handle the societal load, and as we get closer to the observable precipice, the stress we will need to somehow obliterate, will absolutely skyrocket (natural processes work along exponential, not linear, rates of change).
Plan B is tough. It means finally deciding to recognize that the world actually is more important than the ego. This has always been true, and the brief pocket of unprecedented economic ease which allowed the boomers to convince themselves they could be the exceptionals to transcend this reality-limit has been over now for forty years. Time to stop the lying, excuses and obfuscation.
The culture-war has taken many real casualties, but it is ultimately a red-herring, the major problem is actually a social-constipation of stubborn selfishness from left and right. (My wealth is more important than the future)
Modernism in decay
My last example will feel very hard to some, but this really needs to be said. Universal health care is something about which I have written and argued at great length. It’s an absolute no-brainer social good.
The way to achieve-it was always simple – tax the rich – who have become many times richer over the last few decades, as the rest of society has struggled just to find or hold on to a rung. The boomers are the ones with the political power to actually do this, but their chant is still, “Why should I?” Schoolyard: “make-me.”
The affordable care act as-achieved (by supposed leftists, who were anything but) forced the already badly-screwed youth (who now have to work 15 years or more to scrape-up the same downpayment that took 3 years for the boomers) to not only pay-for the health care of an incomparably richer and luckier generation, it also forced them to pay a profit markup to the wealthy shareholders of a private corporation – all at the point of a government bayonet.
Guaranteed to push youth, who are notoriously inclined toward social-justice, way hard over to the right. Outright class theft, by mass political cowardice. But of course, for a cohort that still feels great about pulling the economic rug out from under their own kids generation – why not confiscate the grandkids chances too? Something to feel good about?