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Happier Time

Perhaps it was nothing more than a good way to avoid work on the first few daze back after vacation, but the idea of Popular Doom caught the attention of a lot of people.  Last night, however, we had this wonderful essay by John Oliver at the Daily Show that I have to bring into the discussion, if for no other reason than to ride his coattails:

Even Better Than the Real Thing

His basic argument is that nostalgia for a “simpler time” is nothing more than nostalgia for being a kid – a time when everyone took care of everything for you and you didn’t have a lot of stuff to worry about.  This may take a few leaps of logic, but I hope you can stay with me as I tie these together.

When you’re a kid, one of the big features of your life is that you are completely powerless or helpless.  You don’t notice it or really care until you become a teenager, which is when it never stops being an issue (believe me on this, please).  It’s a warm, happy kind of powerlessness, a feeling that the Big People are taking care of things that need to be taken care of and you don’t have to worry about a thing.

I realize that Fox Nooze isn’t necessarily popular and that this nostalgia isn’t all that they have to offer.  But to put John Oliver’s brilliant commentary into some perspective, isn’t the pitch for a Happier Time (that never was) really nothing more than a way of looking at the same sense of powerlessness and/or helplessness that my readers have convinced me is the main root of Popular Doom?

Let’s try this one step further.  We can see a lot of people, especially on the right, protesting in the streets that have never been at a protest before in their lives.  Is it reasonable to say that a major cultural, social, and thus political driving force these daze is the feeling of powerlessness and, more importantly, how different people react to it?

I’d like your thoughts.

14 thoughts on “Happier Time

  1. I agree 100%. How people react to the feeling that they have no power is what is driving how they respond to what is going on. Some are angry, some are resigned, but I think that very few people really believe that they are in charge of their own lives. Any of us could lose our job just like that and be in a really bad situation.

    I think that this is going to keep working its way through the MSM in different ways, too. I can’t help but wonder if the attention seekers using reality shows are part of the same thing, too.

  2. Thanks. I am looking for someone to challenge me on this because it’s a bit of a leap – but if this is a major force in our politics today we have a big problem. It’s hard to call yourself a Democracy when people are primarily reacting to a feeling of powerlessness. I think I should have also linked to this bit on how we’ve become very suspicious of organizing in general:

    Retelling the Reality

    I think that, if what I’m getting at really is an important force, we have a LOT of work to do. If my more conservative brothers and sisters are worried about this not being the America they grew up in, I want them to know that I agree on a very base level, allbeit for very different reasons, so we have something to talk about.

  3. I don’t know what kind of challenge/tension/refinement you are looking for but I know we disagreed abit on the last decade which may have been semantical/perspective/or time related. The “vietnam syndrome” change was one ofthe biggest changes ( notice how colin powell has dropped out of the n ews in the past year )
    also I was looking primarily at the last year. Anyways here I am typing away at a lousy coffee house keyboard. I still think the new health care bill will be of greatest significance. New exchanges , n ew expansion, cost capping by income, premiums having recognition of ability to pay, no or lesser denied coverage, no individual astronomical premiums. I’ve suffered a small bit but I am very lucky/fortunate regarding health b u t believe me the fifties are harder on the b ody than the 40’s.

  4. Maybe it’s not just powerlessness but a feeling that no one knows what is going to happen next. A lot of people I know have the feeling that no one knows what is going on and that people will just say anything to sound like they know more than they do. Its like explaining the stock market going up or down for some reason – they always say something even if it doesn’t make any sense.

    That is a lot like powerlessness but its also a lot of bluffing.

  5. Dan: I see what you mean about health care, but it didn’t quite get done in the decade, did it? 🙂 I’m also still not sure what we have, and I do tend to take Howard Dean’s side on this. Since it’s not done and we don’t know what the final product will look like, I’m not going to be too hopeful.

    I still have to respond to Mitch’s excellent post on that thread, which made me think. Good perspective, hate to have him think I ignored it.

    Jim: I’ve often said that no one knows what’s going on and that we believe our own BS far too often. That’s a related phenom, I think, but a bit different – it includes a touch of arrogance, don’t you think? Perhaps that’s just one of the many ways to respond to feeling totally out of control, kind of like the slow kid at school who compensates by being the bully.

    I’m hoping someone will be able to offer something a bit more complicated or … I dunno, less child-like? The idea that most of what’s going on politically, socially, and culturally is just a lashing out based on powerlessness seems far to simple, but it also seems to work far too well for my comfort. I’m thinking about it, too, Janine, but I’d like your help! 🙂

  6. OK I’ll try again abit. It makes some of my friends/wife mad when I say George Bush I had a very good term. He worked on balancing the budget by going against his party, bills for clean air and disability rights were passed, and depending on your point of view Saddam’s forces were ousted from Kuwait. The politics that Gingrich introduced in 93-95 have lingered and has created great gridlock in the governance of our country. Something (mainly the Senate and its rules and manipulation) is broke and it needs fixing but the majority party is held too much in check and can’t effectively govern. Now if you want me to talk about powerlessness I could go on at great length. But I won’t. There is a great deal in religious thought/belief and practice/ community that is about mutual aid but discussion of it is mostly suppressed. That’s my quirk anyway.
    And on one of the most basic or base levels at our household we are pissed off at HD TV
    and poor reception due to the cliff affect. The old way worked fine for us (about a third of the time I have my eyes closed/averted anyways. Now we can’t get channels or we have to rescan or adjust the dam fri*** antennae. The only minor benefit is that sports are slightly more enjoyable (and some nature shows too). Eventually we will probably forced against our will to cable up or reinvest in new televisions but might want to wait for more computer/tv interface. Hows that for childish I like watching stuff from foreign countries I’ll never have the cash/time/balls to visit. Oops I went on at great length. sorry

  7. R U sure you want to respond to Mitch? You’d probably be better off shelling peanuts at a baseball game. Or exercising or something else constructive.

  8. On another note. What do you think of the new St. Paul education contract. Myself I think it is irresponsible. I am not anti teacher or anti union
    but this will result in more pain more widely shared through larger class sizes and other cuts. The fundamentals seem unsound. I think the Board is unbalanced politically (the one candidate I was excited about abit lost in the primaries).

  9. Interesting stuff. The NYT apparently lied about Bush and his confusion at a checkout line. Funny how some visual images stick in ones mind.

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