I hadn’t checked in with Adbusters in while, and when I did, saw this article on happiness, aka the modern blues:
I don’t get it. I was the first kid on my block to have a Nintendo. I got a car on my 16th birthday. I didn’t have to work a single day in college (unless you count selling homemade bongs at Phish concerts). My grandfather grew up with nothing. He had to drop out of high school during the Depression to help his family get by, earning money shining the shoes of drunks at a local saloon. Why is my generation, one of relative privilege and wealth, experiencing higher rates of depression than any previous generation?
I turned to French philosopher Jean Baudrillard for some illumination on this conundrum. It seems that in the 19th century, for the first time in history, humans began to require observable proof of happiness. According to Baudrillard, happiness became something that had to be measurable in terms of material gain, something that would be evident to the eye. But I’m surrounded by stuff and yet I’m still glum. At my age, my grandfather had fewer possessions and more happiness. So what do you make of that, Mr. Baudrillard?
Nothing shocking here, especially right here. And the I-never-had-to-work-for-anything glumness is a bit self-indulgent. But the point about Baudrillard becoming somewhat passé is a good sign, I think. As this incomplete notion regarding material happiness increasingly slips into the common experience, people moving beyond it becomes more the norm. We’re at a strange stage in this evolution, that will be much clearer to look back on than it is to experience first-hand and make sense of. But corners are being turned, and this isn’t to sound overly hopeful or optimistic – it’s just a consequence of overconsumption. Even our tendency to want/have/own/possess lurches back toward balance. Thank your animal nature for rejecting your bourgeois tendencies.