Sunday, July 02, 2006

 
Pursuing Happiness in All the Wrong Places second of two parts

You can find happiness in friendship, you find it in friendly encounters with strangers and in your family and friends. We need basic material security to be happy but it isn't happiness. Short of famine relief, happiness doesn't come by truck.

Useless buying and hoarding is a sign of fear, of families and communities failing. This covers everything from trying to buy respect to the exercise machine covered with clothes you can't wear. You aren't any better off than you started out but now you've got another payment to make. Enough turns to more than you want and that turns to more than you can ever use. You have to rent a storage unit to get it out of your house. If you didn't buy it to begin with you might be able to afford basic security and have time to enjoy life with other people.

The McMansion craze that is killing off what's left of the middle class and destroying open land is an attempt to escape the isolated anxiety that life has turned into. Families don't talk to each other in towns full of strangers who are suspicious of each other. And once you're locked in the big house everyone goes off to watch TV in their own rooms. That is until your mortgage rate gets adjusted and you're looking for somewhere you can afford.

Work is even worse than that. It is competitive, cynical and insecure. You are being used and used up. You might not even have the hope that your children can get an education that will give them a better life. They're doomed to even worse than you have it and they resent everything.

You won't find happiness in the package labeled American Dream and the standard alternatives are worse. Forget the myth of the rugged individualist. That is just as phony as the thing they are supposedly escaping. No one is more conformist than those often violent, insecure, tough guys. Look at what happens to one of them who practices real individualism. Their pack turns on them.

The happiness found in decent relations with other people can't be bought or sold, it can't be won by winning. You have to make friends with your family and your neighbors. You can't do that watching a giant TV or DVD. You have to abandon the debt ridden, competitive culture that those continually pitch at us. It's hard to do, especially with children, but it's a lot easier than building a sixteen room house that you'll never own. Debt is a taste of slavery.

When you get your life back you can get past pride. That's a desperate fill-in for self-respect. Self respect comes from getting outside yourself and doing something for someone else. Self-respect gives you the confidence to say no to the sales pitch. Without self-respect no one else is going to respect you, no matter how much stuff you own.

Comments:
shut the fuck up, cunt
 
Yeah, so I heard.

You know that other bloggers on the left see it as a sign of having arrived when one of us gets a Republican-fascist troll. So, thanks for the validation.
 
You, my dear, have arrived!

Great blog, by the way.
 
Uggghh ... I hate McMansions. I want to institute instead of luxury and sin taxes, vulgarity taxes which make clear the externalities of people doing things that damage those like me with delicate aesthetic sensibilities.

E.g., you have an ugly McMansion, you have to pay a tax; a graciously designed dignified but large home ... no extra tax. Smoke stinky cheap cigarettes, pay a tax; smoke additive free, hand roled cigarretes, no extra tax.

Of course, all such taxes will be based on whether something offends my sensibilities. Hey ... if fundies can try and dictate NEA funding, etc., based on their sensibilities, why can't I have government enforce my sensibilities which are far more elegant than theirs ;) ...

Anyway, I lived in Queens for a bit where McMansion means something slightly different but no less obnoxious (my gf has an suspicious obsession with them ... should I be worried?): people tearing down perfectly nice, beautiful faux English style homes and replacing them with huge pieces of gimcrack. I swear (actually, so's I don't violate one of the "Big 10", I should "affirm" rather than swear, but ya catch my drift, nu?) when the gf and I get married (and I move back to Queens), if we have enough money, we're gonna buy one of those blights, tear it down and rebuild it as a faux English country house.

Though I bet people like me complaining about McMansions in Queens sound like racists. I bet our complaining about 'those people' with no aesthetic sense tearing down nice houses to build gimcrack-mansions sounds an awful lot like 75 years ago when the WASPs were probably complaining that our kind moving in was wrecking the neighborhood. But our kind didn't tear down homes (not at that time, anyway): we just redecorated them internally.
 
Thank you, cabearie.

alberich, down the road from me are a series of huge houses that sell for about $350,000. They have electric heat and full cellars. The people who first bought them last year are already losing them to foreclosure. Some of us could see this coming.

Vulgarity tax, hummm. I'll have to think about that. It would put about 90% of TV out of business right away.
 
*sigh* Huge houses for $350K? In most parts of London you might get a two-bed apartment for that...
 
pellegrina, believe me, the incomes here don't support that kind of price and the closest big city is an hour and a half away.
 
olvlzl, the youngest of my three boys is still not quite old enough to go all around the greater Washington, D.C., area by himself. He has friends who live in McMansions in the Maryland suburbs, and he is insanely jealous of their Great Big Houses.

Fortunately, I've already been through McMansion-Angst with his two older brothers. In a year or two, all of my littlest's friends in the 'burbs will insist on having their parents or the au pair drive them down to Casa Biscuitbarrel. We are conveniently located between two D.C. subway stops and are an easy walk to all kinds of teenager-fun places.

I am grateful that long before we had this passel of brats, the manly Mr. Biscuitbarrel, in his infinite wisdom, decided that he NEVER, ever wanted to live in the suburbs.
 
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