Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I sense a theme for the day

Over at The New York Times, Kurt Andersen is bummed out about liberty:
What has happened politically, economically, culturally and socially since the sea change of the late ’60s isn’t contradictory or incongruous. It’s all of a piece. For hippies and bohemians as for businesspeople and investors, extreme individualism has been triumphant. Selfishness won. 
What got him started on this was a question asked at, I'm not making this up, the Woodstock  Writers Festival:
Why had the revolution dreamed up in the late 1960s mostly been won on the social and cultural fronts — women’s rights, gay rights, black president, ecology, sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll — but lost in the economic realm, with old-school free-market ideas gaining traction all the time? 
Like Rebecca Traister, Andersen's argument is all based on a rhetorical trick. He paints the pursuit of self fulfillment as selfishness*, thereby hoping to shame you into surrender.

But there is a whole other way out of this and that is to focus on virtue. Not all paths to self-fulfillment are equal. As a consequence, the  pursuit of happiness can be the doorway to virtue.

By the way: look at that list of "victories" and think about it for a while.

*ADDED: Catch this from Andersen,
The document we’re celebrating today says in its second line that axiomatic human rights include “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” — individualism in a nutshell.  
I think he actually might believe that.

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