Thursday, December 29, 2005

Another Idiotic Op/Ed Piece in the NYT

Darrin M. McMahon has an editorial in this morning’s New York Times titled "In Pursuit of Unhappiness". Mr. McMahon is a professor of history at Florida State and is the author of the forthcoming "Happiness: A History." This is the time of year when we order each other to have a Happy New Year, McMahon says. But he cautions us not to be too happy, because, he says, “As Carlyle put it, ‘The prophets preach to us, '”Thou shalt be happy; thou shalt love pleasant things.”’ But as he well knew, the very commandment tended to undermine its fulfillment, even to make us sad.” Sort of more of the same philosophy as my Grandmother’s when she used to say, “Laugh before 11:00, cry before 7:00.” And it’s true, the pursuit of giddy eternal happiness is not a worthy aim of life and probably will ensure unhappiness. But my cavil is not that I think McMahon is wrong. My objection to the article is that this year of all years we do not need to be cautioned against feeling TOO HAPPY. Nor indeed do we need to be cautioned against feeling too optimistic about the coming year. And we certainly don’t need to be told, “In these last days of 2005 I say to you, "Don't have a happy new year!" Not having a happy coming year is pretty much guaranteed. Most of us are glad to see 2005 end. But the same folks who brought us the disasters of this past year are still sitting in their exalted seats of government. And if left unchecked, they will bring us more disasters in 2006. How is it possible to feel happy in the extreme? Either we will have to fight unrelentingly and continuously to bring down the Bush administration, or we will succumb to its out-of-control spending, aims to rule the world, oppression of the poor and elderly and aggrandizement of the rich. The last thing we need to be told is that being happy is an unworthy aim and that we should pursue unhappiness. If the GOP remains in power, unhappiness is a given.

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