like thumbs, we need opposable thoughts
October 23, 2010, 2:21 am
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

Sometimes I’ve wondered – like right now – what is the endgame of the pursuit of happiness.  It’s qualifiably different in different decades / ages.  For instance, the 1950s coming up roses are different than the 60s peace and punk which are different than the 80s glam and greed etc.  Today it’s greed on steroids, exponential me:  depressing.  The point is, you can interpret the pursuit of happiness cynically or optimistically depending on who you are and what decade you’re in. Furthermore, the interpretation can be corporate, it can take over the whole place.

Matt Zoller Seitz in his essay the Hangover says we’re scolds.  He excoriates – really he does, read the article – our hypocritical tendency to scapegoat some difficult personalities among us, while mysteriously coddling others with parallel foibles.  How does an entire culture become an obnoxious scold?  Could it be at least partially an unfettered pursuit of happiness?  Do we need to re-fetter?  

What is the connection between p of h and a culture of scolds?  The pursuit, taken to it’s logical, and maybe a little extreme conclusion, can be a pretty singular and isolating pursuit.   All bets off but one:  me.  Eventually when we’re at an advanced stage of backed into a corner casting around for more personal happiness, alone, we begin to see other people as getting in the way, with fear, as competition.  A scold comes from an position of self righteousness.

Let’s face it, we are scolds.  We think we’re better, that our way of life is the only way, we’re not just quick to demonize and scapegoat, we’ve made it a way of life.  There is, however, a way of escape:  by opposable thought, a commitment to gray areas, to nuance, to counterpoint.  We can start to accept that a great artist, as an example, can be creative and destructive in the same life, at the same time.

From the article:

Americans are the most irritating of hypocrites: binary-minded, easily distracted scolds. We have trouble holding opposing thoughts in our heads at the same time, and we stay furious only until the next outrage pops up in the media cycle. We have staunch positions on what constitutes right and proper behavior, but only for certain people — the people whose behavior we happen to consider beyond the pale, for whatever subjective reason — and we reserve the right give a pass to whoever we like, whenever we please, and to come up with pretzel-logic rationalizations justifying our inconsistency. And we’ve got no problem taking a nuanced view of morally challenged artists as long as they’re not raising hell in the present day.

The Hangover 2’s” Mel Gibson hypocrisy, Matt Zoller Seitz,

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