Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Happy? Theodore Dalrymple reviews Artificial Happiness: The Dark Side of the New Happy Class, by Ronald W. Dworkin, in the September New Criterion. Dalrymple's first paragraph is as follows:

The word "unhappy" has almost been banished from our vocabulary. It has been replaced by the word "depressed". For every patient who confesses to unhappiness, a thousand now claim to be depressed. What was once considered to be an inescapable part of the human condition has been elevated (or is it reduced?), by a semantic change, to an illness. And since good health care is now regarded as a right, the corollary of unhappiness being an illness is that people believe themselves entitled not merely to the pursuit of happiness, but to the thing itself.

A couple of thoughts about this excellent, well written, well taken point.

As my Boomer peers and I move into the Medicare years, to what extent will our unhappiness issues clog health care system? We are the ones who especially see "happiness" as the entitlement that Dalrymple mentions. In my own practice, I have seen what it takes to care for "clinically depressed" people: a psychiatrist, a neurologist, a psychiatric nurse, a social worker, "companions", aides, lawyers, paralegals, etc. I certainly appreciate the fact that in aged people a dementia will sometimes occur, something that is organically related. But even in those cases, I often wonder whether a spiritual or social component (the same thing, Durkheim?) underlies the condition, is somehow the precicate for the organic failure or contributes to it in some way.

I am studying Galatians right now, and I this famous passage at 5:22 through 26 comes to mind:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Or this one at 5:1:

1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery

In that passage, I see the "yoke of slavery" not being limited to the particular problem among the churches in Galatia - that is, the view that one must observe the Law to be a Christian. I see the "yoke of slavery" as any belief system that lays down a set of rules that must be followed to make one "blessed", that is "happy", that is "saved". For example, the "big firm" world of the lawyer and its formula for success: (a) A name law school; (b) a name firm in a name city, preferably New York, but there are others; (c) billable hours; (d) "originations", that is clients and more clients; and so on. You can name your own "systems" that impose the criteria for success and which enslave us, promising "happiniess" but delivering destruction to ourselves and our loved ones.

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