And This Is How We Feel
February 11, 2008
More of that presumptuous “we” so favoured by Guardian columnists, this time courtesy of Jackie Ashley.
As we have grown richer, we have become less confident and optimistic about the future. Our increased material competitiveness has not made us happier. Our frenzied activity leaves us stressed. The days when free-market theorists believed we would be liberated and happy through privatisation seem a world away. The answers are the same as they ever were. To adapt the famous slogan, the government needs to be tough on pill-popping, and tough on the causes of pill-popping.
Echoing the assertions of her chronically sorrowful colleagues, Madeleine Bunting, George Monbiot and Oliver James, Ashley rushes with undue confidence to the claim that,
People get depressed because they don’t have enough money to keep up in a materialistic and competitive society.
Setting aside the question of whether optimism and happiness per se are legitimate goals of any government or policy, or indeed of capitalism, it isn’t at all clear that Ms Ashley has in fact established that the above is the primary cause of unhappiness, or even that unhappiness is, as she implies, a remarkable new phenomenon, at least in its prevalence. Perhaps, like her colleagues, she speaks of her own feelings and presumes “we” must feel as she does for reasons that escape me. Either way, it’s interesting to see just how readily the most tendentious things are asserted, based on nothing much.