What's Tony Thinking

At Week’s End, August 12


My capitulation of writing that caught my attention this week has a common theme: the problems of a therapeutic culture, where identity is a constant, never-ending and largely internal project. One caveat, it is important to distinguish therapy and therapeutic culture. Therapy can be important, helpful and healing. In a therapeutic culture no one every gets healed, as people perseverate endlessly on their identity.

David Brooks had a great column about therapeutic culture and how it has taken over with adverse consequence for the American psyche. “Left and right, we’re all apparently victims now.” Our former President is the “victim-in-chief,” traumatized by a “stolen election.” Poor boy!

Moreover, in such a culture the loudest and least mature voices (see previous paragraph) tend to take over, turning institutions that we all depend upon into performative spaces for the self-absorbed. Here’s Brooks:

“The instability of the self has created an immature public culture — impulsive, dramatic, erratic and cruel. In institution after institution, from churches to schools to nonprofits, the least mature voices dominate and hurl accusations, while the most mature lie low, trying to get through the day.

“The people with these loudest voices often operate in that histrionic manner that suggests they are trying to work out personal wounds through political expression. People on all sides genuinely come to believe they are powerless, unwilling to assume any responsibility for their plight — another classic symptom of immaturity.”

I can testify that this phenomenon bedevils many churches, turning them into chronic centers of conflict. Church members, who try to be “nice” end up enabling the anxious and least mature.

A(nother) case in point comes from Seattle’s Museum of Popular Culture, currently hosting an exhibit on Fantasy, which includes “Harry Potter.” But now persona non grata, author J. K. Rowling, has become in the hands of MoPop “she who cannot be named.” Here’a bit of the MoPop frenzy from its website.

“There’s a certain cold, heartless, joy-sucking entity in the world of Harry Potter and, this time, it is not actually a Dementor.

“We would love to go with the internet’s theory that these books were actually written without an author, but this certain person is a bit too vocal with her super hateful and divisive views to be ignored. Yes, we’re talking about J.K. Rowling, and no, we don’t like that we’re giving her more publicity, so that’s the last you’ll see of her name in this post. We’ll just stick with You-Know-Who because they’re close enough in character.

“Her transphobic viewpoints are front and center these days, but we can’t forget all the other ways that she’s problematic: the support of antisemitic creators, the racial stereotypes that she used while creating characters, the incredibly white wizarding world, the fat shaming, the lack of LGBTQIA+ representation, the super-chill outlook on the bigotry and othering of those that don’t fit into the standard wizarding world, and so much more. We’re going to be focusing on You-Know-Who’s transphobic views in this blog post because she’s really doubled down on them lately.”

Having spent some time looking into Rowling’s views on these issues, it is way over-statement to call her “transphobic” and “hateful.” She does think that people who are biologically male, even though they identity as female, should not be housed with women in prison, in women’s shelters, nor share the same bathrooms as girls in schools.

Now a related piece from feminist writer, Jill Filipovic in the Atlantic, with some comments, fore and aft, from Free Press editor, Nellie Bowles.

I was wrong about trigger warnings”: Feminist writer Jill Filipovic has a beautiful mea culpa out this week in The Atlantic. Her piece is on how the culture of trigger warnings created a mentally ill, weak group of soft-of-hand, frail little Zoomers (sorry, I’m just taking some lines from the pep talk I gave our interns this morning). She writes:

“‘Back then, I was convinced that such warnings were sometimes necessary to convey the seriousness of the topics at hand (the term deeply problematic appears a mortifying number of times under my byline). . . . We thought we were making the world just a little bit better. It didn’t occur to me until much later that we might have been part of the problem. . . . The warnings quickly multiplied. When I wrote that a piece of conservative legislation was “so awful it made me want to throw up,” one commenter asked for an eating-disorder trigger warning.'”

“Telling young women that they’re weak and that minor discomforts are of enormous significance turns out to make them feel really bad. In the end, Jill finds her way to positive psychology and Martin Seligman (the best). He basically says: you’re actually very strong and you can take control of your mind. People: you have nothing to lose but your triggers! Though I’ve never tried it, TGIF admires someone who can change their mind. Good on you, Jill.”

I’ll return to David Brooks and his column for the closing word. “If we’re going to build a culture in which it is easier to be mature, we’re going to have to throw off some of the tenets of the therapeutic culture. Maturity, now as ever, is understanding that you’re not the center of the universe. The world isn’t a giant story about me.”




Categories: Uncategorized