Watched the Max Hastings documentary on the First World War and found it very interesting, thought-provoking if not actually polemical. My main issue with it was, firstly, the persistent notion that the threat to British independence as a world power, as posed by a victorious Germany on the continent forced, or justified, their involvement (a more subtle point, made by Hew Strachey, was the importance of upholding the ‘rule of law’, in relation to Belgian neutrality, to the economic interests of Britain’s empire). Yet how does this compare to Germany’s position in seeking to expand its own power - beyond the economic - and at what point does British hegemony cease to justify as a cause the bloody slaughter across the continent? Likewise, when dealing with the outcome of the war - the necessary peace, as it were - it is posed that there was no other possible accommodation of a belligerent Germany in the European order before World War II. This, of course, poses the question of how the post-WWII settlement established a lasting peace between Germany and the rest of Europe, essentially it would seem by establishing a more closely integrated economic and later political order - that, nevertheless, the UK notably remains on the periphery of. Which brings me to my third idea, relating to my current reading in Foucault of the German origins of ordo- and neo-liberalism in the post-war conception of an economically-founded political order - “History had said no to the German state, but now the economy will allow it to assert itself” - and its influence on the EU. Without wishing to indulge in the anti-German rhetoric which features among Irish reactionaries, left and right, I wonder if the financial crisis has indeed revealed a third phase of German struggle for hegemony, this time economic rather than military, and politically motivated by a constrained ideal of law rather than the authoritarian or totalitarian usurping of it.
The joke fails because it’s based on what’s odd being that adults express their feelings, rather than that they have to pay someone to be able (and feel comfortable) to do so. The article makes the infantilisation even more explicit: “the feeble approximation of a mature self-respecting grownup”; and both of the subject and the therapeutic relationship - “felt much better after the kindly listening man, a so-called doctor, told him that it was okay to cry”.
No I’m pretty sure the joke is actually ‘pretending to confirm the irrational self-doubt of the reader’. They do articles like this all the time, their ‘Figure Out What It Is You Love, And Then Do It On Evenings And Weekends For The Rest Of Your Life’ was a particularly successful example. The joke is ‘Yes, the world sucks as much as you think it does’. It’s supposed to make you squirm a bit, but at the same time, it’s on The Onion - so ultimately, in theory, you know it’s obviously not true and in a roundabout way they’re confirming that you’re wrong to think that about yourself.
I mean maybe it’s a bit too far given the subject matter, and maybe I’m not explaining this well, but I think you’re misinterpreting what’s supposed to be funny about it.
But your explanation in the end applies just as well, if not better, to my interpretation anyway: the suckiness of the world does not consist in making adults into children, but forcing them to pay for the privilege of genuinely expressing themselves as adults. The Onion is taking (even if only ostensibly) the first line, as I’ve clearly shown with the quotes, and by doing so in many ways negating the second - it’s an odd way to satirise the failings of the modern world by restigmatising people’s genuine reactions to it. And no, I don’t think it’s just an issue of proportion. I mean, I do see what you’re saying about it conforming to the Onion’s normal line of satire, but at best here they’re blurring two distinct criticisms (infantilisation and commodification) together which, as I see it at least, have two very different imports and validities, whether reflected ‘ironically’ or not.
Really, my concern writing the above post was trying to restrain my own scepticism/criticism of therapy (it doesn’t help that one particularly abiding memory of my own brief experience of it was placing a fifty euro note into a clammy palm for an essentially cash-under-the-table private session), since it’s hard to separate - and psychotherapy, I think, deliberately makes it so - personal bad experience from broader critique, and I’m well aware that many others have a greater need of it (or at least the solace and care which it provides) than I had or will hopefully ever have.
During the six-year study of 2,000 people aged 50 and over, which was presented last weekend by University of Chicago neuroscientist Prof John Cacioppo, the loneliest participants were more than twice as likely to die as the least lonely. Previous studies have linked social isolation to a range of health problems, from high blood pressure to heart attacks. The converse is also true: a sense of being part of a community is a key factor in longevity. So the research is fairly unequivocal – loneliness is a major health issue.Yet when was the last time you heard a politician prioritise something as nebulous as building a sense of community or creating opportunities for social engagement? (And how likely would you be just to tune out if you did?)
Well, there was Bertie Ahern and his interest in Robert Putnam’s ‘Bowling Alone’ as part of a crusade for voluntarism - or as we now see it, especially as in reflected in the post-crisis UK ‘Big Society’ rhetoric, as part of the abdication of the state in the area of social services - but politicians will give lip service to anything as long as it doesn’t involve directly threatening the economic order from which these problems inevitably flow. You can see this in the discourse surrounding the more acute effects of loneliness in terms of mental health and suicide; and it ties in with what I’m reading in Gorz about the weaknesses of the world outside of, or free from, work. Who is lonelier, the forcibly unemployed, or the person in the dead-end or bullshit job?