That red-neck Socialist Joe Bageant recently mused:
In any case, it causes me to wonder why is there enough pain and alienation to sustain America’s umpteen-billion mental health business and its 400-plus specialties, not to mention the inner self-help industry and Deepak Chopra’s royal court.
It seems Joe has sunk his teeth into a half truth. Our misery is not the product of “pain and alienation”; it is the product of our sense of bored entitlement that has corkscrewed its way to the very core of our beings.
Thomas Jefferson told us that God wants us to be happy, and we become distressed when we are unable to achieve the happiness Madison Avenue promises us. The problem is that Madison Avenue’s idea of happiness and Jefferson’s are two different things.
Madison Avenue tells us that the path to happiness involves buying more and more things that we don’t need. So we buy and buy, and can’t figure out why we’re still miserable.
Jefferson, on the other hand, equated happiness with the common welfare, or what was once known as the common weal. According to him, no community could be happy as long as one of its members suffered want.
This explains why America’s elites have been waging a 224-year campaign against Jefferson’s subversive thinking. Taking the point in this campaign have been our Protestants who consider a smile an inappropriate display of emotion.
Max Weber once defined a Protestant as one who lays awake all night worried about the sins he hasn’t committed.
For decades, Protestants threatened us will fire and brimstone, and their efforts culminated with the introduction of prohibition. When that experiment went bust, the Protestants doffed their clerical robes and slipped on white lab coats. What had once been sinful became unhealthy.
They had struck gold! Hell doesn’t frighten many people; sickness does.
Now Americans lay awake nights worrying about the tumors they don’t have.
The beauty of this obsession with health and personal well-being is that it has reinforced the myth of the fictive ego. Ego is nothing more than the sum total of the tales we make up about ourselves, tales that encourage us to hide in the middle of the herd where our fiction is nurtured and encouraged. And while wallowing in our ego-obsessed egos, any idea of community goes out the window along with the concept of the common welfare.
Jefferson’s happiness that was to give us a community in which all prospered has been reduced to a marketing tool that fragments the very community he once dreamed of.
That’s progress for you.