Hillary suggests that it takes a village to raise children. I am not sure if that is true, but I am confident that a village full of angry women will not be effective. From the article,
Does having too many choices, and too much freedom, contribute to intense dissatisfaction?
Perhaps. But there is undoubtedly more as we will see later. So much choice can lead to unhappiness because, in short, one is always fretting over what choices one made, should make, and didn’t make. Often simplicity of choice is a blessing.
Are modern people, particularly women, angry because our culture of self-affirmation and abundance has left them feeling unsatisfied?
What is self-affirmation? Taking selfies? I thought a culture of affirmation was bad enough (e.g. trolling for Facebook likes), but now we are into self-affirmation? Doesn’t anybody have anything useful to do? Perhaps by doing something useful, one might become more satisfied.
That women are less happy today is not just anecdotal. In 2009 the US National Bureau of Economic Research found that since World War II, when women reported greater happiness than men, the difference in the twenty-first century had dropped to zero. The study’s authors, Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers of the University of Pennsylvania, found that in the U.S., women’s happiness had fallen “both absolutely and relatively to that of men.”
This would seem to be a problem; not just for women, but for husbands, boyfriends and children. Perhaps women might want to address it. But then again, no. That might lead to curbing impulses and limits on acceptable behavior; we can’t have that.
But then again, happiness (or even contentment) isn’t everything.
There’s also overwhelming anecdotal evidence for anyone who bothers to make basic observations. Talk to women from the Greatest Generation, or from the 1950s and early 1960s, and they generally seem rosier than their young feminist counterparts. My mother, eighty-five, is a sunny and sanguine person, despite living through the Great Depression and losing her mother when she was only fifteen. Barbara Bush, Betty White, ninety-something swing dancing wonder Jean Veloz—these women all had and have the qualities of serenity and contentment. They’re secure in themselves and happy about who they are.
Maybe growing up during a period with a lack of abundance instilled some notions as to how the world rally works; and perhaps more essentially, what is truly important. Moreover, there was the last remnants of the evil Patriarchy keeping them down and shaping their lives. Still, content they are/were.
By contrast, many modern women seem quick to express anger about their lives. Living in a world of unlimited choices and constant affirmation, they nonetheless seem resentful. Even celebrities aren’t immune: Pop star Madonna is richer than many small countries and is absolutely free to do, say, and wear (or not wear) anything she wants to. Yet when fans have the audacity to be upset that she’s an hour late for a show, as she was recently, she launches into a tirade. American women live in the freest, most open-minded country on earth, yet seem bitter and disappointed.
Yes indeed: First World Problems. Perhaps the modern world is like cocaine, it makes you feel good in the short term (a big high), but is not effective in the long term (a steady low). Maybe a different approach is needed, one that leads to long term contentment with some high points through it all. Was this what the previous generations had?
Consider the disposition of Casey Wilson, who has just written about her anger issues for Lenny, Lena Dunham’s online magazine. Wilson, an actress, writes about her many years of rage. She’s “thrown a Mountain Dew pager out the window of my boyfriend’s car on the highway en route to Rehoboth Beach”; she’s “smashed my beloved bedazzled Sidekick into my dressing-room mirror at SNL and left a trail of crushed BlackBerrys in every shitty apartment complex in LA”; she’s “thrown my iPhone only once, in a tequila-fueled moment (but between us, I knew I had an upgrade coming).”
Or perhaps nobody taught her how to behave. So her childish impulses became adult impulses. Dunno. Maybe this explains everything and we can all go home now.
Nah. Probably not. There is undoubtedly more going on.
Wilson has put her finger on what is called “the paradox of progress.” The more we make giant advances in science, communications, medicine and technology, the more people complain. Free from starvation, we gripe about the quality of the organic food at our local restaurant. A hundred years ago polio was wiping out thousands of children in the United States; now teens become apoplectic if they have their iPhones taken away. My mother had a very rough childhood that included having to support her family while still a teenager. Now women who could be her granddaughters are demanding tax breaks for makeup.
Perhaps they complain more because they have time and the free mental energy to do so. That, plus people get a short term high from complaining. It makes them feel alive and engaged and stuff. Once again, if they were spending their time doing something useful, they might be less inclined to complain.
The great social historian Christopher Lasch once wrote eloquently about the conceptof “the ethic of limits,” which he described as follows: “For vast numbers of Americans, limits are a necessary and even desirable face of life—limits on human freedom, on human capacities, on the power of reason to eradicate everything that is mysterious in the universe.” Lasch contrasted the people who live with limits—those who spend their lives working, raising kids, and living their lives “a long way from the center of metropolitan culture”—with a “New Class” of elites that pursues a “heady vision of unlimited possibilities” and “views life as an experiment.” Lasch believed that the people who accepted the reality of limits ended up living more hopeful lives.
The reality of limits is what is being suggested as leading to contentment. I had a materially modest, but happy childhood, so anecdotally I agree. Though I might suggest that a slightly more general concept may lead there; that is, just understanding the reality of how the world works. Not so much how you wish it would work, but how it actually does. For example, I do believe that many men who have learned the red pill are more content after doing so, than before. Knowledge will set you free (to be content).