Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pursuing Happiness in All the Wrong Places by Anthony McCarthy

Decided to repost this piece from my defunct blog while putting the ads from Friday's paper in the recycling bin. It's a pretty disgusting waste of trees. And that's after the story of the sales clerk trampled to death at WalMart and the shooting in the toy store. What is so wrong is that it is a holiday alleged to celebrate the man who said you could serve either God or Mammon. Clearly America has chosen Mammon, well after it was warned.

The estimable columnist
, Derrick Jackson, has a similar take on this subject.

ou can find happiness in friendship, you find it in friendly encounters with strangers and in your family and friends. We need basic material security to be happy but it isn't happiness. Short of famine relief, happiness doesn't come by truck.

Useless buying and hoarding is a sign of fear, of families and communities failing. This covers everything from trying to buy respect to the exercise machine covered with clothes you can't wear. You aren't any better off than you started out but now you've got another payment to make. Enough turns to more than you want and that turns to more than you can ever use. You have to rent a storage unit to get it out of your house. If you didn't buy it to begin with you might be able to afford basic security and have time to enjoy life with other people.

The McMansion craze that is killing off what's left of the middle class and destroying open land is an attempt to escape the isolated anxiety that life has turned into. Families don't talk to each other in towns full of strangers who are suspicious of each other. And once you're locked in the big house everyone goes off to watch TV in their own rooms. That is until your mortgage rate gets adjusted and you're looking for somewhere you can afford.

Work is even worse than that. It is competitive, cynical and insecure. You are being used and used up. You might not even have the hope that your children can get an education that will give them a better life. They're doomed to even worse than you have it and they resent everything.

You won't find happiness in the package labeled American Dream and the standard alternatives are worse. Forget the myth of the rugged individualist. That is just as phony as the thing they are supposedly escaping. No one is more conformist than those often violent, insecure, tough guys. Look at what happens to one of them who practices real individualism. Their pack turns on them.

The happiness found in decent relations with other people can't be bought or sold, it can't be won by winning. You have to make friends with your family and your neighbors. You can't do that watching a giant TV or DVD. You have to abandon the debt ridden, competitive culture that those continually pitch at us. It's hard to do, especially with children, but it's a lot easier than building a sixteen room house that you'll never own. Debt is a taste of slavery.

When you get your life back you can get past pride. That's a desperate fill-in for self-respect. Self respect comes from getting outside yourself and doing something for someone else. Self-respect gives you the confidence to say no to the sales pitch. Without self-respect no one else is going to respect you, no matter how much stuff you own.