Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless
July 10, 2016 7:07 PM   Subscribe

The inimitable Laurie Penny (previouslies) writes about our current economic and political climate, "the language of self-care and wellbeing almost entirely colonized by the political right," "progressives, liberals, and left-wing groups [beginning] to fetishize a species of abject hopelessness," and a third way with promise. [SLBaffler]

Some highlights:
The wellbeing ideology is a symptom of a broader political disease. The rigors of both work and worklessness, the colonization of every public space by private money, the precarity of daily living, and the growing impossibility of building any sort of community maroon each of us in our lonely struggle to survive. We are supposed to believe that we can only work to improve our lives on that same individual level. Chris Maisano concludes that while “the appeal of individualistic and therapeutic approaches to the problems of our time is not difficult to apprehend . . . it is only through the creation of solidarities that rebuild confidence in our collective capacity to change the world that their grip can be broken.”
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The problem with self-love as we currently understand it is in our view of love itself, defined, too simply and too often, as an extraordinary feeling that we respond to with hearts and flowers and fantasy, ritual consumption and affectless passion. Modernity would have us mooning after ourselves like heartsick, slightly creepy teenagers, taking selfies and telling ourselves how special and perfect we are. This is not real self-love, no more than a catcaller loves the woman whose backside he’s loudly admiring in the street.

The harder, duller work of self-care is about the everyday, impossible effort of getting up and getting through your life in a world that would prefer you cowed and compliant. A world whose abusive logic wants you to see no structural problems, but only problems with yourself, or with those more marginalized and vulnerable than you are. Real love, the kind that soothes and lasts, is not a feeling, but a verb, an action. It’s about what you do for another person over the course of days and weeks and years, the work put in to care and cathexis. That’s the kind of love we’re terribly bad at giving ourselves, especially on the left.
posted by coolname (38 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
 
I really liked this price and the point it raises. It reminded me of the push by corporations to frame environmentalism as a matter of personal consumer choice and responsibility and not like, regulations and legislation.
posted by The Whelk at 7:21 PM on July 10, 2016 [45 favorites]


"The slow collapse of the social contract is the backdrop for a modern mania for clean eating, healthy living, personal productivity, and “radical self-love”"

Man, oh man, if only this were true. Instead, we live in a country where the most common breakfast cereal is a byproduct of a c. 1900 health food cult that was obsessed with stopping masturbation and the spread of STDs - and that's just the tip of it. Self-improvement, control of the body, and the gospel of personal and economic efficiency are so deeply wrapped around our collective DNA, and so often in tension historically w/the actual economy faced by working people, that it would be hard to argue than this is anything other than the fundamental baseline of what it means to be American.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:37 PM on July 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


I liked what this article had to say, though I wish that Penny had been a little more critical of the defeatism that she identifies. I'm having some trouble finding a way of articulating this without being callous, but I'm sincerely trying:

There's lots of obnoxious hyper-positive consumerism and lifestyle-ism on display now (especially through the grotesque lenses of social media). It's uncool and un-success-y to show the difficult parts of your life. Life must never look like a struggle if you want to fit in with the shiniest people on your Feed.

On the other hand, I'm also seeing a lot of the crab-bucket mentality as well. The backlash is starting to go too far in the other direction. What does this look like? From what I've seen, there's a sort of attitude of "How dare you even suggest that I might have any control whatsoever over my own life and happiness?!" As well as the implication that nobody over 30 knows what it means to suffer.

There's a lot of bad shit going on right now. But I also think we snake people have a very limited view of history. Shit's been really bad in the past as well. In the U.S., a lot of people spent a very long time being acutely terrified that the world was going to explode in a firestorm of nuclear holocaust. Imagine it's 1971: Nixon's in the White House; there's the threat or reality of being drafted to Vietnam; friends/relatives dying there; the hope of the 60's seems futile; tons of important people have been assassinated or jailed, etc.

Or, I mean, think about America in the 1930s. The question is not, "How bad is it," but, "What am I going to do to make the best of it?"

But the attitude I see frequently among my generation is a kind of special pleading, like only WE really know what it's like to live in precarity and fear. And that conditions are so bad that we shouldn't be expected to be able to affect things in any way. And that if we're miserable, it's absolutely NOT anything that we could influence by our own actions or attitudes. It's 100% the fault of the World Being Gone to Shit.

Not everybody is like this, of course, but I see it a lot (including in myself).
posted by overeducated_alligator at 7:47 PM on July 10, 2016 [47 favorites]


I think it's helpful to differentiate the map from the course you've traveled when in the process of learning what effective self care really is.

The process of learning what's beating you down from beyond your control is time consuming and fraught with a lot of helpless emotions, but after a time where the world's bullshit ends and your personal bullshit begins becomes more clear. People are not born knowing how to see that line, they have to learn it. some days on tumblr I just have to keep on scrolling though a patch or a thicket of some new subcategory of a marginalized group sorting out a new border between "bad personal choices" and "wow I really am treated like shit". Knowing this process and having faith that beyond the internecine warfare and feelings of helpless despair will emerge a potentially rad new intersectional group with helpful insight as to exactly how the map of our world is drawn helps me not feel irritated when I see the "woe is me" stage playing out.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:13 PM on July 10, 2016 [17 favorites]


As a cishet white man who is a nerd, I sometimes find it hard to find that real self love. The gay community is not a great model for me, because I'm the bad guy in all the narratives, and a lot of the things I grew up loving have been tainted by sexism, racism, etc. I never fit in as a kid, and I'm woke enough to be rankled by my own privilege (I know, I know, waah for me, worlds tiniest violin, etc). So mostly I just knit a lot and hope that works.
posted by rikschell at 8:23 PM on July 10, 2016 [5 favorites]


It’s more than likely that one of the reasons that the trans and queer communities continue to make such gains in culture, despite a violent backlash, is the broad recognition that self-care, mutual aid, and gentle support can be tools of resistance, too.

Rikshell, feeling rankled by our privilege is a way of taking a teensy-eensy bit of load off oppressed groups who usually carry the burden of our privilege alone. So in a way that feeling of "ugh..." when we recognize our privilege is us taking the emotional labor off the people our privilege oppresses and putting it back on ourselves.

That seems a lot like offering mutual aid in my book, and I think "helping others" is part of a healthy self-care practice.

It's a really super small step and there's like a huge overwhelming amount of work left to do but we are allowed to recognize the small things we do and give ourselves some credit in spite of the huge amount left to be done.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:43 PM on July 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


Or, I mean, think about America in the 1930s. The question is not, "How bad is it," but, "What am I going to do to make the best of it?"

This. I'm sure we heard our elders talk of these 'we had no yard' times.
I was infused with it as a youth. For example, in the 80s, I cleaned out the pantry at grandmothers house and found a can of peaches from 1944, it rattled.
In the recent move, our place has a sort of built in hutch and the first thing I did was check the bottom of the drawers. Yup, made from Packing crates. After 80 years, they function well. I read that enough wood was used in packing crates to build 400,000 homes.
Which finally brings me to Louise Brigham. She started designing box furniture in 1909.
Amazing. Nice read, thanks for posting it.
posted by clavdivs at 9:02 PM on July 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


As a gay PoC, I think Sara Ahmed and the author misrepresent the neoliberal argument. I get their point, but the vulgar dismissiveness by typical white leftists, which certainly exists and I've found unpleasant as well, is the weak version that you'll find on, say certain subreddits. The fact that this is not mentioned suggests that they are not aware of this. The strong version is that neoliberalism functions by exploiting categories and classes with the condition that capitalistic fundamentalism is untouched; this opens up many theory questions and issues, etc. This dismays me because this kind of writing promotes the wrong analysis. Further, people don't have to be well-versed in any of this stuff, even the 2nd last paragraph about QLGBT progress raises many questions that a critical reader should ask, that the author didn't address in the text.
posted by polymodus at 10:15 PM on July 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


But the attitude I see frequently among my generation is a kind of special pleading, like only WE really know what it's like to live in precarity and fear. And that conditions are so bad that we shouldn't be expected to be able to affect things in any way. And that if we're miserable, it's absolutely NOT anything that we could influence by our own actions or attitudes. It's 100% the fault of the World Being Gone to Shit.


This article and your comment have helped gel an idea of what's confused me about the narrative I hear from younger people. It's not that things aren't shitty, they really are, but there is a weird combination of the idea that things weren't shitty in the past, and a buying in to the happy vision sold by commercials, TED talks, and Instagram feeds. A combination of negativity and higher expectations.

It's impossible to separate my personal history from my view of history, but growing up in the 70's and 80's was not like an 80's movie. Just like some people talk about a return to a better time based on their viewing of Leave It To Beaver, I feel like younger people think people of my age lived in a world of 16 Candles and Wham! videos or something. We had no expectations, we didn't believe for a second the happy images being sold (besides the fact that most of those images were ironic reaction to extreme cynicism). For various reasons I truly never expected to live past 25 and planned accordingly. I didn't and never expected to go to college, I know hardly anyone my age that went to college (even though I know many very successful people). I never expected or even wildly dreamed to have a career, own a home, any or that. Skepticism ran deep.

But for some reason my generation raised a generation of people to believe the dream wholeheartedly, and baffling to me, pushed a return to a far more conservative world than the one we grew up in.

I feel for young people struggling to realize the world they have isn't the one they were promised. I don't understand why they were promised that stuff, but I guess things did look pretty good for a while. But I didn't grow up in a movie world of school-career-marriage-comfort guaranteed. When I was a little kid we sat and tried to calculate the odds of our city being a target for a nuclear attack, and when I would be old enough for the draft and would the war be over by then (I was way off). After that it was dangerous sex, drugs, waiting for the world to end, high crime rates and riots, all kinds of fun stuff. The future turned out amazingly duller than I expected.
posted by bongo_x at 10:57 PM on July 10, 2016 [28 favorites]


It's different because we were raised in a different environment. All the bad awful compromises of the past, all that Reganism and Thatcherism and such, was the better deal, cause it had all gotten SO BAD in those awful long ago past times when those dirty awful hippies where in charge (ignore that this wasn't actually true, the reactionary counter revolution was not aimed at you per say but in remaking the past ) and now if you're just Good Citizens (but not politically! Politics are for the crazies! Your civic duty is shopping!) and keep your head down you can successful and don't you know it's the end of history ANYWAY and you don't have to worry about job markets or student loans or global warming look we'll fix all that, it'll be fine, look how booming the 90s are for yu and some of yur older siblings! Literally nothing can stop this gravy train of peace and prosperity forever!

In short, you weren't being told these things, cause you were not 10 in 1992 Post Berlin Wall collapse the current mood was all Blind neoliberal boosterism all the time. if you graduated high school in 2001 you'd be INSANE to think the good times wouldn't go on forever and any student debt would be forgiven and pollution wasn't a big deal and of course the world banking system is secure and the US would never get into another war, those environmentalists are craaaazy

The existential threat of nuclear war is one thing. Knowing for a fact that big parts of the planet's surface are not going to be inhabitable by humans in 50 years is another.
posted by The Whelk at 11:12 PM on July 10, 2016 [54 favorites]


-The Whelk-

I'm trying to borrow some more favorites to give you.

I have only learned these things from MetaFilter. If not for this place I would be totally in the dark as to how the hell any of this happened.
posted by bongo_x at 11:23 PM on July 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


The hard part with the article is that the neoliberal stew we all got marinated in is still going on, where the answer to "hey how come I'm still struggling and everything is awful?" Is "well you're not trying hard enough" . The real problem is with you, you're a bad naughty wicked person who eats the wrong things and thinks the wrong way and that's why you're 100k in debt yep it's personal responsibility! You don't need compare medical coverage, you need to take charge of your own body!its all "oh the casino isn't rigged you're just not pulling down on the slot machine handle HARD enough"
posted by The Whelk at 12:14 AM on July 11, 2016 [32 favorites]


I feel like the article, and some of the comments here, come dangerously close to proving the whole self-help thesis.

The common theme running through a lot of this conversation is the gap between expectation and perceived reality. Objectively, things were much shittier for most of the past. So why do things seem so bleak today?

Economic inequality makes people unhappy because even if you're objectively historically wealthy, your perception of your wealth is judged in relation to those around you.

Social media generates unhappiness, presumably because people are comparing themselves to impossibly happy versions of everyone else.

Being constantly connected to the news means you know about every shitty thing going on anywhere in the world.

Global warming, even now, only shows up statistically, and can't be considered "the reason" for any particular weather phenomenon. It's our knowledge about the predicted course of these trends that is frightening.

In all these cases what makes us miserable is going on inside our heads. I think the liberal attitude is that we should be unhappy about a lot of this, it's our obligation as empathetic human beings to be troubled by things outside our immediate personal experience. But I don't think this is necessarily the healthiest (or even most politically productive) response.
posted by bjrubble at 4:28 AM on July 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


I should add that turning self-help into victim-blaming or using it to justify ignoring structural problems is absolutely vile. I just think (or hope) we have some capacity as individuals to choose how to react to the world around us, and to do better than throwing our hands up in despair. (And I'm talking about myself as much as anyone else here.)
posted by bjrubble at 4:38 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Off to read the article now, but I seem to remember the narrative in the 90s already being "everything is fucked."
posted by aspersioncast at 5:21 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


that's just the tip of it.
I see what you did there.
posted by ambulocetus at 5:22 AM on July 11, 2016


(A quick comment on worseness before reading the OP - I think things are worse now, and I was alive in the eighties. My dad thinks things are worse now, and he was just talking about how much terror and despair everyone felt in 1968 when it seemed like the war and the assassinations could not be stopped. I think kids have it worse now than I did. The thirties, the forties - that's a different story, but global warming, pervasive neoliberalism, the collapse of the social safety net, etc - those things are worse than anything after 1950. With Reagan and nuclear war, for instance - you have only to look back at the popular culture and history of the eighties to realize how much opposition there was and how effective it was after about 1984. Nuclear war is a simpler problem, bad as it is, than global warming. Not that I think abjection is a good answer, or that these questions can't be asked, but I will be forty two this year and it's worse.)
posted by Frowner at 5:31 AM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


But if you read all the way to the end of the OP, she's actually saying "practice self love and eat whole grains, just don't be a consumerist asshole about it".

I dunno, I wish she'd have written more. This should have been an old-school Baffler article (I still have all my nineties Bafflers!) that goes on for pages and pages in tiny type. I feel like this piece goes in a lot of directions but not very far, which is often the feeling I have with her - she has it in her to write longform and I think she should do more justice to her ideas.

So, for instance, I would read a whole article about post-Occupy activists. I know a bunch of people who came into activism through Occupy, I have been around the milieu through some post-Occupy clusterfucks and I appreciate that she has stuff to say about Occupy and activist culture, since I think it's undertheorized. Occupy itself is relatively well documented, but more from a "look at this political history, here's how we did it" standpoint.

I think it's difficult to unpick "good" social practices around self-love and "bad" social practices, and I think this may be where the theorizing of my generation (and maybe younger marxists like LP) falls down a bit.

This occurred to me particularly at the Black Lives Matter march on Saturday where the sound system was playing Beyonce and it really moved people. Beyonce was part of what made that protest go. Those songs bonded people together and gave them more courage and a narrative (in a weird way - soundtracks at protests are a very strange thing to experience). In my generation, that would not have been a thing - partly because there was no one of Beyonce's stature with her political position, partly because we would not have played anything so mainstream....and partly, of course, because sound system technology was different and you didn't get rolling ones at protests. It was a really powerful illustration of the way that old understandings of activist culture have fallen away. (I thought it was really great, just to be clear.)

This dismays me because this kind of writing promotes the wrong analysis. Further, people don't have to be well-versed in any of this stuff, even the 2nd last paragraph about QLGBT progress raises many questions that a critical reader should ask, that the author didn't address in the text.

Could you say more about this?
posted by Frowner at 6:43 AM on July 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


This whole 'things are objectively better' thing - is that true? Yeah, I've seen the stats, but I haven't read all the studies, nor have I checked their work. Let's say my trust meter is really low. I also assume many of them are measuring the wrong things, or juicing the numbers, etc.

Look, if you'd told me years ago people's drinking water was poisoning them, I'd have laughed, even in my younger self's days. Chemtrails, I'd say. And yet here we are, bottled water is the norm, and well before all the lead poisoning.

Was it last year, or the year before it was revealed there were secret police bases in Chicago? Guantanamo has come home. Look, I had no love of lawmen as a young man, but I'd never have expected my own people would think torture was the morale thing to do.

It might just be too many shocks to my system, or the usual growing up. Whatever the case may be, I understand better the old guys who never talk and just watch.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 6:49 AM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


This whole 'things are objectively better' thing - is that true?

It's almost as if they think that putting the word "objectively" in has magic power
posted by thelonius at 7:13 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I didn't even bother to quote accurately :( it's 'Objectively, things were much shittier for most of the past'. My point still stands, but I sure need to be more careful.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 7:22 AM on July 11, 2016


i listened to the most recent episode of invisibilia on saturday, about Frames of Reference.

They interviewed Hasan Minhaj about the different frames of reference between him - snake person growing up dealing with racism against brown people - and his father - escapee/survivor of a revolution that targeted his people.

His conversation came to an interesting conclusion: that people are much happier if they have lower expectations and let subtle racism and transgressions roll off their backs, but society only improves when people find those things negative enough to take a stand and make a change. Society needs some people to feel bad for it to get better.
posted by rebent at 7:25 AM on July 11, 2016 [20 favorites]


Are things worse, I don't know, there was a whole thread recently where nearly everyone confessed their retirement plants were a bag and a bottle of pills and support/care for the elderly and I'll used to be one of those signs we don't live in a wretched Gilded Age nightmare slum sooo
posted by The Whelk at 7:37 AM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


In my case I was taught to feel bad about feeling bad, yet what I have learned is that the ultimate aim of self care is to learn how to love the bad feelings and learn how to recognize what the bad feelings are trying to tell me. Growing up I was taught to push the bad feelings away or somehow justify them out of existence and those decades of life now all just feels like I lived in a fog of low emotional IQ and a lot of ignorance.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:08 AM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I know this won't put an end to the "are things better or worse?" subthread, but to me it's pretty obviously both. Torture is morally acceptable now (and not just in a we'll-do-it-but-not-talk-about-it way), basically nobody who hadn't retired before 2008 will get to retire, homeownership is a literally impossible dream for a lot of people and not merely an unlikely dream. But also the world is more accepting of queer people than it used to be, even though there's a shitload of work still to be done and there are dangers that have come out of increased visibility. And, yeah, cops are still executing black people at around the same rate, but it's something that a lot of white people you wouldn't expect to have noticed it have finally noticed (Newt Effing Gingrich) and maybe something will even get done about it. A centrist ended up winning the Democratic nomination, but she's a woman, and an honest-to-god self-described Socialist came closer to getting a major-party nomination than anyone would have expected, and we've had our first-ever Black president who not only hasn't been assassinated (knock on wood) but also is pretty popular.

And I know that's an ungodly run-on paragraph, but I don't think there's any way to separate out logical sets of thoughts in such a tangled mess of history. Things are always getting better at the same time that they're always getting worse, there's my thesis on this whole deal.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:14 AM on July 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


On the other hand, I'm also seeing a lot of the crab-bucket mentality as well. The backlash is starting to go too far in the other direction. What does this look like? From what I've seen, there's a sort of attitude of "How dare you even suggest that I might have any control whatsoever over my own life and happiness?!" As well as the implication that nobody over 30 knows what it means to suffer.

My youngest cousin likes to post a lot of snippets from Tumblr on her Facebook, and virtually all of them are about how the Boomers fucked the economy for the Millennials and how hard it is to get a job, with example after example of people failing to get hired, failing to pay back loans, failing to achieve the great economic heights they grew up in and were promised.

I do think the economy currently is objectively shitty, but man, she's never going to move out of her parents' basement if her answer to everyone's advice about getting jobs is "I can't find a job because the economy sucks." Like, ok then, I don't disagree, but . . . where do you even go from there?

And to put the shit cherry on top of this shit sundae, she has in fact had - and left - two jobs already since getting her Associates. She left a job in her field (after a several thousand dollar training and certification course) because she decided she wanted to do something different, and she left her most recent job because she couldn't take the office politics. Which is just, man, how about the people who are disabled, impoverished, victims of racism, ageism, bigotry, etc. get to explain themselves with the crappy economy and not you, hm? Not to play the Oppression Olympics or anything . . .
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:40 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Was it last year, or the year before it was revealed there were secret police bases in Chicago? Guantanamo has come home. Look, I had no love of lawmen as a young man, but I'd never have expected my own people would think torture was the morale thing to do.

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with this story from 1970s/80s Chicago?

I'm not even a snake person, but I can appreciate why Boomer rhetoric blithely blaming young people for not bettering themselves by leveraging the systems that the Boomers themselves already strip-mined and left for dead has induced a particular reaction in that generation.
posted by praemunire at 9:58 AM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Tobascodagama,

Your general rundown mirrors essentially my own. I'll add mine is essentially a nihilist position in regards to progress. Kinda like how I believe there is a god, but I'm not as sure as many that he/she/it loves us.

Praemunire,

I was not familiar with that, but it wouldn't have surprised me to find out even before the recent years of executions. It certainly fits into the more sterile mode of operation that was the redlining of the time. I wanted to use the Mengele style of experimentation on the black population as an example, but I couldn't even remember the common name for it to find it. And it's old. And not happening anymore (I hope!)
posted by Strange_Robinson at 10:21 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Strange_Robinson I think you are looking for eugenics.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:24 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Here: http://www.cdc.gov/tuskegee/timeline.htm

I had the name right, but Google was giving me tourist destinations. Mind, this was back in the day when lynching was a family pastime.
posted by Strange_Robinson at 10:26 AM on July 11, 2016


This dismays me because this kind of writing promotes the wrong analysis. Further, people don't have to be well-versed in any of this stuff, even the 2nd last paragraph about QLGBT progress raises many questions that a critical reader should ask, that the author didn't address in the text.

Could you say more about this?


I wasn't quite sure which way this comment was going either. I mean I think the author is referring to the sort of argument I just saw in another MeFi thread (forgot which one) suggesting that "identity politics" (ehh) is used by the neoliberal order as a distraction from class struggle and solidarity etc. you know. But I'm not sure whether they meant they agree or disagree with this line of argument. (I would disagree with the sweeping version of this that you get from hoary old Marxists while agreeing that parts of the language of "social justice" are legitimately in danger of co-optation).
posted by atoxyl at 1:39 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think that the reason we millenials might feel a bit screwed has to do with the fact that our parents, who still have almost all of the wealth and power in this country, seem to have pulled up the ladder behind them and left us for dead. The feeling I get is that the twenty- and thirty-somethings who ought to be coming into their own now are largely still scrambling for the crumbs falling from the Boomers' table, and the Boomers seem to be happy to continue stripmining the future at an ever-increasing rate in order to amass more and more resources for themselves, as if they could somehow take it all with them when they go.

Those are some very broad generalizations I just threw out, and I know that there are a multitude of individual exceptions down on the ground. Still though, from the perspective of this college educated thirty-something who's still not making a living wage and is therefore parked for the forseeable future at his parents' rather nice home in the suburbs (and who spends 10% of his take-home on very mediocre health insurance, even post ACA) it sure feels like opportunities are kinda thin on the ground.

Those that do exist seem mostly to be found in anti-social occupations, as well. I consider myself one of the lucky ones, but even so it's never been clear to me how I'm supposed to get ahead without stomping on the heads of my peers in the process. I'm not interested in throwing myself body and soul into some hypercompetitive entrepreneurial meat-grinder/casino, and I'm not interested in making a living defending the interests of multinational corporations and banks, or shilling for sociopaths, or designing new and better ways to kill people, or designing new and better iterations of disposable plastic garbage, or literally stripmining the earth's rapidly-dwindling natural resources. Everyone I know who's doing well has made what I see as unacceptable moral compromises, and all the people I know who have kept their integrity are struggling and scrambling well into their thirties. How am I supposed to feel about that?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:49 PM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Everyone I know who's doing well has made what I see as unacceptable moral compromises, and all the people I know who have kept their integrity are struggling and scrambling well into their thirties. How am I supposed to feel about that?

Unfortunately, I think the short answer is that for most Americans at least, that has been the status quo for more than a generation.
posted by thegears at 4:51 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


First few paras I was like "wuh...?"

Then I got to:
"[. . .] I’m sick and tired of seeing the most brilliant people I know, the fighters and artists and mad radical thinkers whose lives’ work might actually improve the world, treat themselves and each other in ludicrously awful ways with the excuse, implicit or explicit, that any other approach to life is counterrevolutionary. [. . .] I sometimes take a day off, because it became apparent that the revolution was not being driven any faster by my being sick and sad all the time."

Then I got it, and liked her point, because I've seen so much of that type of behaviour, meanwhile getting flak for saying that refining ones conduct individually and basic self-care (i.e. sleeping and eating as routinely as feasible) are vitally important to any pursuit — particularly the exhausting.

It seems LP may be turning a corner herself (cf. chicken nuggets and cigs) and I hope to see more like this from her.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 4:59 PM on July 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Positive thinking has become deeply unfashionable. The American punk kids I know describe it, disparagingly, as “posi.” The British ones, of course, describe it as “American.” Whatever you call it, it feels a lot like giving in.

Hey, the 80s are really back!

But seriously, this was how I recall viewing the world and my personal prospects in the late 1980s, when cynicism was the only fashionable (or seemingly realistic) choice.

I liked a lot of this writing but I think she's posing a false choice. Both self-care and collective action are important, they are often linked, and either alone is not sufficient to create a truly better life for ourselves/others.
posted by Miko at 5:12 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I made a crack in one of the politics threads about Oprah being the Dem Trump, which sent me into my bookmarks to reread this Guardian article which is a similar critique of our economic malaise and the cultural solutions we're supposed to embrace.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:08 PM on July 11, 2016


Knowing for a fact that big parts of the planet's surface are not going to be inhabitable by humans in 50 years

What?

basically nobody who hadn't retired before 2008 will get to retire

What what?

I mean, both of these are simply flat-out false. (Okay, the first one isn't provably false, but I challenge you to find a respectable climate scientist willing to stand behind it.)

The issues underlying both statements are serious issues and major challenges, but cloaking them in this sort of wildly overblown exaggeration seems both emotionally draining and practically unproductive, and is exactly the kind of thing that makes me feel there really is a need for self-help (aka. "perspective") on the left.
posted by bjrubble at 8:43 PM on July 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Re: Perspective

Effectively communicating the wisdom from the greatest, boomer and X'er generations down through to snake people will go a lot better if we eliminate the "macho tough love tell ya how it is" talk and instead bring everyone into the discussion as trusted partners to the conversation. Like, we all have to show a willingness to listen back.

My children and all their friends are way more intelligent and informed than I was at their age and thus look at society elders who speak in a manner coming off as "let me tell all you young'uns where you're wrong" as effectively damaged goods and suspect on arrival.

Which honestly, in my opinion, I don't fault them for that assessment. It should be okay for the younger generations to tell the older generations where we're full of shit. My kids and their friends own me all the time, and I own them back too, it's just a matter of them having a sense that there's a two-way street there and given how the media talks about snake people I'm not sure that two way street is being offered clearly enough.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:34 AM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]


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