← Previous Post: | Next Post:


Shit Fishing in America

Wee UD was so excited to read the opening pages of Christopher Lasch’s Culture of Narcissism (1979). Already tutored in the Wastelander philosophy of her Northwestern University professor Erich Heller (a refugee from Hitler, he came by his despair honestly), she was way ready for the everything’s shit in America thing Lasch had going. She enjoyed imagining herself far superior to the shallow narcissists at the heart of his analysis; and she for sure enjoyed his incessant invocation of an entirely catastrophic US of A.

It took UD years to recognize that total, eloquent denunciations of the total despicableness of this or that culture are seductive and dangerous things. Fascists and communists specialized in them. Sharia-touts will gas on all night about the comprehensive decadence of America and Europe. Cathophates (UD‘s term for Catholics who want to gift us with a Catholic caliphate) write books and books and books with the following come-on: Hey, citizen of a democratic secular state – aren’t you depressed and lonely and empty? Wouldn’t you like to be part of a warm embracing community that will endow your suicidal existence with meaning and purpose and eternal life so you won’t even have death-anxiety?

Elder-UD has learned to appreciate people like Cancel-Culture-Target-du-Jour Steven Pinker. While no Pangloss, he’s not simply one more intellectual trying to snow you with the hopelessness of it all.

Of course UD still thinks things are pretty stinkin’ – what with the ascendancy of Trump – and she still thinks dark-eyed despair sexier than clear-eyed calm… But she’s wary, now, of high-gloss misery peddlers. Cuz most of them are selling something. Something extreme.

Margaret Soltan, July 18, 2020 1:21PM
Posted in: democracy

Trackback URL for this post:

2 Responses to “Shit Fishing in America”

  1. Chas Clifton Says:

    The way to achieve success in the humanities is to offer the most depressing interpretation of whatever it is you are discussing. But a “revolt against the modern world,” as you say, is tricky and seductive.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Chas: Yes. Though, to be fair, it’s hard to find a short story of value (I taught GW’s Short Story course for years) that isn’t sad/depressing or at least way creepy… So the raw materials of the humanities, if you will, tend to be … I mean, think of the status of Shakespeare’s tragedies, versus that of the comedies…

Comment on this Entry

Latest UD posts at IHE