Monday, July 11, 2016

If Laurie Ain't Happy, Ain't Nobody Happy

Laurie Penny:

The isolating ideology of wellness works against this sort of social change in two important ways. First, it persuades all us that if we are sick, sad, and exhausted, the problem isn’t one of economics. There is no structural imbalance, according to this view—there is only individual maladaption, requiring an individual response. The lexis of abuse and gas-lighting is appropriate here: if you are miserable or angry because your life is a constant struggle against privation or prejudice, the problem is always and only with you. Society is not mad, or messed up: you are. Secondly, it prevents us from even considering a broader, more collective reaction to the crises of work, poverty, and injustice.

Well, that's certainly one possibility, that there's an ancient neoliberal conspiracy, stretching all the way back to the Stoics, to keep us from rising up collectively and smashing the ruling class by deflecting our attention toward small, personal efforts at self-improvement which pose no threat to the system. But if the amount of liquid oppression in the glass of society is equal to half its volume, then it depends which part you choose to emphasize. Alternatively, it could be that you're just a congenitally miserable crank whose entire laughable, clichéd ideology is merely an attempt to transfer responsibility for your contentment to the rest of society. It might even be that your pose as the world's whiniest bodhisattva is less genuine concern for all the suffering beings in the world and more a means of making millenarian fantasies such as, uh, "the end of patriarchy and the destruction of the money system" the necessary conditions for your happiness, thus conveniently guaranteeing that you'll never have to stop complaining, and never have to risk being crestfallen should it turn out that all your revolutionary reveries came true and you were still unhappy, leaving you with no more excuses. Finally, there's the troubling likelihood that most people have considered, yet still reject, your false dichotomy of individual vs. collective well-being in favor of trying to strike some sort of imperfect balance between the two. Everything in moderation, as some damned neoliberal Greek once said.