coromandal


it’s your fault

Oprah says it’s not the system, it’s you.

She tells us the market will solve grave political, social and environmental problems, as long as we adjust ourselves to its demands.

She sees your anxiety and tells you it is not the fault of all of these very real external social problems; rather it is your fault, you just haven’t worked hard enough to comply with the rules.

For someone doing well, emphasizing how you improve yourself through your own efforts is empowering; the successful cling to this ideology because it has worked very well for them.

But, for someone with anxiety and thoughts of alienation, Oprah’s ideology is pretty dispiriting. It reinforces a punitive view that becomes pervasive and pushes people deeper into helplessness and passivity.

What we get is a passive, atomized, isolated populace unwilling to think and to articulate what ails them and how to make it better; a culture that is punitive – a very real Stockholm-syndrome culture of self censure and self defeat; and finally institutions that, although fatally flawed, remain unchallenged and increase in corruption and power.

The irony is that the message seems so affirming and yet is so destructive, and the tragedy is the lives that it takes.

From New Prophets of Capital:

Oprah is one of a new group of elite storytellers who present practical solutions to society’s problems that can be found within the logic of existing profit-driven structures of production and consumption. They promote market-based solutions to the problems of corporate power, technology, gender divides, environmental degradation, alienation and inequality.

[…]

Oprah recognizes the pervasiveness of anxiety and alienation in our society. But instead of examining the economic or political basis of these feelings, she advises us to turn our gaze inward and reconfigure ourselves to become more adaptable to the vagaries and stresses of the neoliberal moment.

[…]

The way Oprah tells us to get through it all and realize our dreams is always to adapt ourselves to the changing world, not to change the world we live in. We demand little or nothing from the system, from the collective apparatus of powerful people and institutions. We only make demands of ourselves.

We are the perfect, depoliticized, complacent neoliberal subjects.

extract from New Prophets of Capital by Nicole Aschoff, published by Verso Books.

 

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all kinds of richness
October 11, 2013, 12:24 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , , , , ,

In our work lives, the status quo is snobbery and the desired goal is love, explains Alain de Botton below. Snobbery is being judged based on superficials while all the richness of our inner lives roil hidden beneath the judgment: a vision from Dante’s hell. In essence, bosses reduce workers to one or two capabilities that meet their business needs, while workers yearn to use their genius and suffer through their days.

To break this unhappy  – and untenable – blockage, one must see the real potential of a person’s inner life. This is accomplished by imagination, which breaks the bonds of the snob judgment and allows the real inner richness and creativity to be revealed and to play a part.

It’s a good lesson to know if you want to be happy in your workplace, or to make a pleasant workplace for the people who work for you.

Alain de Botton on the chasm between our rich interior selves and our jobs:

We live in a world surrounded by snobs.  What is a snob?–A snob is someone who takes a small part of you and uses that to judge the whole of you.  And the dominant snobbery nowadays is job snobbery.

This is a deeply frightening vision.  Partly it’s frightening because most of us are unable to bring our true richness of character and personality in line with our business card.  The business card does not fully reflect who we are. We are being judged, we feel, in a humiliating way.  We feel there is so much in us that has not got an expression in capitalism.  You know, capitalism is a machine that recognizes outward financial, external achievement.  And most of us carry all kinds of richness which we are unable to translate into that language.  There are very few of us whose full complexity of character has been brought out, as it were, on their business card.  Most of us, what is special about us requires – it requires love.  And by love, I mean imagination.  It requires someone to say, even though that person looks a bit, it could be anything boring, uninteresting, unimportant, dull, actually that’s because I’m only looking at them in the first 30 seconds.  They need more time.

So we need charity and we need complexity.  And the cruelty of the modern world, the cruelty of New York City, for example, so this is a city where people give you 30 seconds and not much longer, if you’re not careful.  And that’s very challenging, it cuts people up inside.  It literally drives you crazy.

What are you worth?  Getting past status anxiety, Alain de Botton



you were supposed to sing or to dance
January 10, 2013, 11:49 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

From Alan Watts, Life and Music:

Then when you wake up one day about 40 years old, and you say, “my god, I’ve arrived, I’m there!”  And you don’t feel any different from what you always felt.  And there’s a slight let down because you feel there was a hoax.  And there was a hoax.  A dreadful hoax.  They made you miss everything.

We thought of life by analogy with a journey, a pilgrimage, which had a serious purpose at the end.  And the thing was to get to that end:  success, or whatever it is, or maybe heaven after you’re dead.  But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing, and you were supposed to sing or to dance while the music was being played.



governed by idiocy and prejudice
November 14, 2011, 4:04 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

In our recent economic downturn, people say that there is a culling happening, that the brightest and the best are being retained in their companies while the dubious and slovenly are let go.  They say that this is a good thing, as the fit become fitter and human progress is assured.  No one really says what happens to all the people that slip through the cracks:  trampled underfoot perhaps, but anyway out of sight out of mind.

This version of who sinks and who swims doesn’t fully square with my experience.  I have found that, at least sometimes, the loyal and boring tend to rise quickly and entrench, while the smart get restless and make waves and are let go, or get bored and leave of their own accord.

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philosophy of success

Alain de Botton writes and speaks with a perfect blend of erudition and accessibility.  He’s on the vanguard of a new movement to popularize philosophy.  But we hate ideas, we’re a ‘just do it’ culture, how can there be a movement with any traction to popularize philosophy?

Consider that in this society and the world, we are going through a great deal of tumult and change: a lot of unemployment, corruption, and general upheaval.  And consider too that perhaps we need to question some of the ideas that have formed the basis of everything that went wrong and got us into this mess.  In theory, new ideas gain traction when enough people start to think that the ‘just do it’ culture should pit stop and begin to listen to people who broker in ideas, like philosophers, like de Botton.

A philosopher, and someone who knows philosophy, can tell you why a perpetually positive society has lots of envy and depression.  And why a meritocratic society can become very cruel.  And he can tell you that one very real way out of our hyper competitive work and social culture is an understanding of Greek tragedy which sets at its theatrical center, failure.  He can tell you how our analytic ways of thinking preclude the truth that our relative successes and failures in life are often very haphazard.

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