Saturday, September 6, 2008

Why We Hate Us



A paradox that bewilders me: America today. How can we be so affluent, so able to instantly satisfy any need, no real concerns over having enough food or clothing or shelter, and yet be so miserable?

Why We Hate Us addresses this paradox. Here's what I took away from this book:

The biggest problem seems to be that people have no real connections. Almost half of America feels isolated. And our lives are shallow, not deep. A quote from the book:

"With all our riches and freedoms, we have assembled what we thinly call 'lifestyles'---assemblages of recreation, work, consumer goods, freely chosen beliefs, family arrangements, and a great deal of media. Our new arrangements are not providing the nourishment we need, the warm relationships and ready guides. The older, connective tissues of American life are fraying, and the new, artificial ones are weak."

I had to put this book down several times. It was horribly depressing. But it addresses a very important question: Why is it that we live in the most affluent society that has ever existed yet we are not pleased with ourselves? Like most books of this sort, the author spends twenty chapters addressing the problem and one tiny chapter offering solutions.

One of the author's strongest recommendations is to limit media. I agree. I gave up tv three years ago and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

13 comments:

C. B. James said...

I also gave up T.V. several years ago. Rather I gave up cable which is largely the same thing. I also do not listen to radio call in shows for the most part.

I find that I have a much more positive outlook about America than most of my friends and collegues do. This is true even though I read many many blogs, most of them from the "angry left". (I've never really found one I'd discribe as angry; mad maybe.)

justareadingfool said...

This sounds like a good book. The Wife and I "gave up" TV a year or two ago-- first, for financial reasons, but we haven't gone back because it's so nice to have that noise in the background. I can't say we really "gave it up" because it wasn't that much to "gave up," Bruce Springsteen's song "57 Channels (and Nothing's On)" has now been multiplied by two or three in some cases.

beastmomma said...

Ironically, I saw the author of this book on the television show, "The Colbert Report" which seemed interesting.

Marie said...

That sounds interesting. What economic class was the book talking about mostly? Because there is certainly a lot of poverty here, plenty of people who don't have enough to eat, or a place to live, or decent housing. Oh well. Interesting.

Beautiful Witch said...

It sounds depressing. I'm from Australia, so I know this isn't a uniquely American phenomenon. We are disconnected. We do live virtual lives. It's so easy to get sucked into tv, blogs, even books (nooooo I love books!!!) and forget that the life we're supposed to be living is OURS. Life is painful sometimes and we've set it up that way with an emphasis on money and commercialism. Is happiness a new car? A designer dress? A Big Mac? I don't know, but I like to think that through my writing I'm connecting with who I am and hopefully one day my writing will connect other people.

debnance said...

I like to think that we are connecting through the Internet more than we do through tv. I honestly have to say that I am not sure this is really so.

I know that, in general, connecting with people in person is s much more satisfying experience than "talking" with people in blogs or lists...though connecting online has the added feature of connecting with wonderfully literate people, something I love more than most real life conversations.

Clare Dudman said...

Very interesting - your thoughts and all the comments that follow...we too have almost given up the TV. It wasn't a conscious decision - it just sort of happened because there was nothing on we wanted to watch. Strange, isn't it - the more channels there are the less there seems to be worth watching.

It strikes me that perhaps the answer to all this lies in books on happiness.

Actually, thinking about it, there was a very good programme on the TV about this over here in the UK a couple of years ago. The conclusion was that social networks were important, also helping other people, getting rid of soap operas (but not quality TV like documentaries), getting out into the countryside...which is pretty much like the conclusion you've come to, I think.

Sorry for the long comment!

debnance said...

I've read a number of books about human happiness in the last few years and most come to the same conclusions: People who are happiest have connections and give to others. It is the connecting part that we seem to be having the most trouble with now. How do we increase the number and quality of the connections in our lives?

justareadingfool said...

From what I'm reading here and on other blogs, but especially book blogs, this discussing (even through comments) is one of the ways which we connect.

Table Talk said...

Like Clare above I found myself just gradually giving up on television because there was so little I wanted to watch rather than doing something else. It still sits in the corner, but is mostly used for playing DVDs of films I want to see. However, the radio is another matter. That I would miss.

Colleen said...

Wow, this sounds like a very interesting book. I think if I read this book it would depress me as well! I thought the comments here on comments were interesting. It makes me think that maybe there are many people who do want to connect with others in some way. Really, technology gives us more ways to connect with other people. I guess the question is what we consider a meaningful connection.

rjsbooklady said...

It doesn't sound like you loved this book quite as much as I did, but I appreciate your review. I haven't totally given up TV (though I'd like to try), but I limit my viewing and spend a lot of time reading and hanging out with the people I love, and that makes a big difference.

rjsbooklady said...

It doesn't sound like you loved this book quite as much as I did, but I appreciate your review. I haven't totally given up TV (though I'd like to try), but I limit my viewing and spend a lot of time reading and hanging out with the people I love, and that makes a big difference.