The National Doubt

R.D. Laing wrote: “Pain in this life is not avoidable, but the pain we create avoiding pain is avoidable.”
 
 I don’t think this is true. Let me be clear: I used to wish it was.
 
 I get Laing’s point of course. Repressed feeling leads to additional pain. As I often say to those who’ve asked me for emotional advice: “depression feeds on itself and occupies us.” Everything looks the same when we have the blues. The whole world becomes impossible to live in.
 
 Avoiding depression then, is a necessary task. One wishes to not fall under the sway of depression’s stories.
 
 Back to Laing: depression results in part from the avoidance of pain.
 
 But in the political world, a place Laing knew a good deal about, the adverse of his maxim is often true: the avoidance we create by avoiding pain becomes policy.
 
 Pain as policy requires a rhetoric of inevitability. By pretending we’re not avoiding it we fantasize about the health of the nation. A common example is the argument that Social Security can’t be sustained. Though the assertion is specious many Americans inevitably believe it because they’ve been taught to believe distress is inevitable.
 
 Since the majority of Americans want Social Security to continue the political class tables the business of fixing it. Neither do they overtly destroy it. The rhetoric of doom is reconfigured for the next election. The eventual death of Social Security is presented as being something natural like the expiration of the sun.
 
 We could fix Social Security in a jiffy if we really wanted to. But the avoidance of pain isn’t deemed good politics.
 
 Americans must be taught that there are no political solutions for pain.
 
 And so avoidance becomes policy.
 
 We could fix the nation’s roads and bridges.
 
 We could pay teachers better.
 
 Give veterans better health care.
 
 Take a stab at reducing the national debt.
 
 Because avoidance is policy politicians must cultivate a rhetoric of impossibility.
 
 And that of course is just about the only thing that works.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 – Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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