Sunday, January 15, 2017
Life Is Too Short To Be Worried–The Allure Of Donald Trump, Drinking, Smoking, And Illicit Sex
A lot of people are still hurting after the election of Donald Trump – an arrogant racist, homophobic, misogynist who represents the worst of America. His accession to power is no less than a betrayal of the nation’s compassionate, considerate, inclusive, and progressive values. The man is not only dangerous, but morally corrupt and spiritually empty.
Few of Hillary Clinton’s supporters have, unlike those who promoted losing candidates in the past, gotten over the shock of the election and have vowed to never, ever, give up their opposition to Donald Trump. It is no longer a matter of politics, but of integrity, self-worth, and self-esteem. Capitulating now would be tantamount to cowardice and moral weakness.
The Women’s March on Washington, scheduled for the day after the Inauguration, represents over 200 progressive organizations which are concerned about abortion rights; Black Lives Matter; climate change; environmental protection of the air, water, forests, and wildlife; child abuse; pornography, income inequality, and a host of other issues.
Unlike the demonstrations of the Sixties which were very focused on two major issues – civil rights and ending the War in Vietnam – and were instrumental in effecting policy change for both; the Women’s March is more a show of progressive solidarity and belonging – a call to arms at best, and an emotional expression of the still painful angst of losing.
Half the population – those that voted for Hillary – is in painful denial; and if the Women’s March is any indication, these disaffected voters intend to keep their wounds open and raw as reminders of their moral responsibilities.
If the social media are any indication, millions of Americans who have no particular emotional stake in the Donald Trump issue are worried about other things. Fluoridation, for example – a conspiracy theory that simply will not go away – has risen once again to the fore. Although more reasoned that the original theories which implicated the Nazis and the Russians in schemes to neuter the political will of the United States via fluoride, the issue has no more credibility than it did 75 years ago.
The relationship between vaccinations and autism is another discredited theory that seems to be gaining adherents despite decades of professional, scholarly, and scientific research which have debunked it.
Every one of the progressive causes represented at the Women’s March are flogged on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Despite their remarkable rise in law, medicine, the military, and business, women are still an oppressed group, threatened by sexual abuse, institutionalized patriarchy, and ignorant sexism.
Gays, despite their remarkable success in near full integration into the sexual and cultural mainstream of America, still need help and protection. While the urban areas of the coasts may have afforded them the generous inclusion of other groups, rural America remains bitterly homophobic.
And on it goes. Everyone, it seems, has to have something to worry about; some cause to espouse; some wrong to set right. One would think that with a job, a family, and a mortgage, few people would be interested in taking on more collective ills – especially when even a casual look at history shows that one problem solved is always followed by another, often worse; that wars persist, each bloodier and more brutal than those before; that greed, inequality, and indifference are more characteristic of society than compassion and respect.
Yet, we persist in a belief in progress if not perfection. Not only are we engaged in the struggle for economic and social equality and for the righting of the balance between Man and Nature, we must live healthier and longer. Little or no alcohol, no tobacco, and avoid fat, sugar, and salt. Exercise regularly, practice yoga for better mind-body equilibrium; take organic supplements to restore the health of individual bodily functions. Have as much sex as you can, but exercise caution. Sex these days is a battlefield littered with the victims of sexual abuse, disease, and abortion.
American society seems to be ruled by the ghosts of Cotton Mather, Salem, Temperance, schoolmarms, and nuns. We have become insufferably abstemious, self-righteous, and purposeful in what we see is an inevitable path to a better life and a better world.
There are many of us, however, who want no part of all this. The only thing we take seriously is Hobbes’ observation that life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short; and do our best to fill our days with unconcerned, guiltless, and self-gratifying pleasure.
This is not to say that today’s Epicureans are immoral. Far from it. We are also children of Epictetus who preached Stoic calm and acceptance. The combination of the two philosophies are strong foundations for living life responsibly but with maximum pleasure and satisfaction.
Konstantin Levin, a principal character in Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, was like his author-creator a seeker. Why, he asked, would God create human beings with wit, humor, intelligence, insight, and creativity, but give them only a few short decades of life and then consign them to an eternity in the cold, hard ground of the steppes?
Levin thought that doing good was the answer. Tolstoy himself simply gave in to faith, tired out from decades of searching for the truth. Nietzsche claimed that the only validation of life in a meaningless universe was the expression of absolute Will.
Most of the rest of us simply realize how short life is and how, given history’s endless and repetitive cycle of human activity, any investment in other than self-awareness, self-gratification, and pleasure will end up nowhere.
The accession to the Presidency by Donald Trump is cause for celebration. Not because we feel that he will necessarily be a good leader however measured; but because he represents exuberance. His yachts, Mar-el-Lago estate, private planes, kitschy, gilt interiors of Trump Towers, Miss Universe beauties, and the carefree spending of the confidently happy are what we have been waiting for. We are sick and tired of Hillary’s hectoring, the persistent warnings of campus nags, the medicalization of behavior, the anger of the streets, and the never-ending preaching about God, goodness, and doing the right thing.
We eat and drink immoderately, smoke, and have lovers. We configure our lives to work moderately while earning well, to spend time in the sun, and to get eight hours.
Of course there are risks in this pattern of behavior – but they are socially imposed risks and have nothing to do with the balance sheet of one’s own life. No one gasping his last breath thinks of foie gras declined, sparkling water aperitifs preferred, and hours at the gym. We will all think instead of sexual opportunities missed and adventures passed up.
So the Trump Inauguration is a time to celebrate a cultural renewal – a reaffirmation of exuberance, risk, and reward. We have had enough measured rationality, purposeful ambition, and the political sanctimony that goes along with them. It is time for a change.