Monday, February 14, 2005

Self-help

I’ve just had a week’s worth of one of the worst colds I’ve ever had. Needless to say, I have not been that up for writing, sitting instead in a fog of head congestion and daytime television. If you ever really want to despair for our culture, just watch a few days of day time television.
I’m not going to go on about our discontents, which seem legion, but rather the lie of self-help. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. We’ve been raised in this country to believe we can be anything we want to be. And lately, that has also been being as rich as we want to be (this is perhaps nothing new, but only the baldness of it that is). And I’m thinking this is uniquely American—it’s what makes us great, but also I think is what’s becoming our undoing.
Not only because we are perpetually dissatisfied, but because I wonder if we are all participating in a lie. Maybe anything is possible here, but it’s arrogant to think that this can be a world view.
Americans seem to view the rest of the world’s troubles as a lack of vision, a lack of strength, that we can all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. We can’t even do that in this country. We have people who are getting poorer and poorer as our rich get richer. And everyone is buying books telling them how if they work a little harder they will get what they want—riches, fame, a fabulous life. Is this a lie? Is everyone smart enough to be President (the current yahoo excepted), have business saavy to run a company, talented enough to entertain a stadium of people? Current episodes of American Idol point to "no", and also show the pain when that dream destructs. Certainly not an argument against dreaming, but an incredible testament to people's aptitude for self-deception.
I just saw the most amazing documentary, “Born into Brothels”, about the children born in the red light district of Calcutta. A couple of these children’s lives were changed by the woman who helped them learn photography and get into better schools. But the majority were not allowed to change by their parents, and will end up in the same dismal situation. I just kept thinking of Anthony Robbins and his cronies. Sure, the message sounds great. But aren’t there sometimes external forces that stop us from getting what we want? Is getting what we want even in our best interests? Can everyone be president?
I’m still foggy from this cold, and this is not gelling the way I’d like, but there is something here I will explore—is the American view large enough to hold the world? And is the dissatisfaction of our country an indicator of the direction the world is heading?

1 comment:

digigoth63 said...

If American culture has a world view, it's myopic at best. You're right that Americans seem so inwardly focused (and on superficial things) that they comprehend very little of the true need going on around them. They tidy up their house and live in denial about the rest of their community, the rest of society, the rest of the world – much to their detriment.