America has bought into the manic, “if it feels good, do it,” approach to life described in the previous post. Once adopted, this perspective leads to a chain of conclusions that explain contemporary American culture.
First, using feelings as my basis for decisions calls for immediate gratification. I can’t feel tomorrow. Tomorrow is a rational abstraction. I can only feel right now. Therefore, I should do what makes me feel good now. This concept suggests options such as drugs and promiscuous sex. These choices may have negative ramifications for the future, but feelings don’t know anything about the future. Therefore, consequences don’t enter into the decision making process. Regardless of the risks, if a behavior makes me feel good, I should “do it now.” I should “just do it.”
In addition, the person using a feelings approach to reality is the only person because I can only feel my own feelings. Therefore, I am the only reality. All else that exists merely constitutes images on the monitor of my mind. Life is a lot like playing a video game. The other characters are only make believe. One can see how this implication fostered the “me” generation.
Being the only real person assigns me the right to do my own thing. In effect, I am god in my own universe. No one else has the right to impose their views or values or desires on me.
And since I am the only being, the impact on others of “doing my thing” is irrelevant. The old cliché that my rights end were my neighbor’s nose begins does not apply. I should make decisions solely on how they affect my feelings without regard to the well-being of others since in reality all others are non-persons.
Of course, the entire logical flow of thought above requires accepting the initial premise, that feelings should be the lens through which we view reality and make decisions. Once we accept that starting point, everything else logically follows.
We can summarize this chain of conclusions with the phrase, “I have a right to do whatever gives me the most pleasure now regardless of the consequences.” That motto encompasses the manic perspective that dominates contemporary American culture.
Though various terms have been used to refer to this manic, feelings-oriented approach to life such as existentialism and postmodernism, those terms are problematic because they carry with them baggage that does not apply here. For example, if we employ the term existentialism, someone will argue that the views described above do not really reflect existentialism, and to some extent that is valid. Therefore, I find it best to refer to this phenomenon simply as American mania.
We see American mania at play in practically every dimension of contemporary society. Drug use, a major outgrowth of the 60s philosophy, only makes sense if we adopt the perspective on life described above. A rational analysis would expose drug use as a bad idea. However, if the individual is going for the maximum positive feeling in the immediate moment without regard to consequences, drug use is a great choice. So also with promiscuous sex.
American mania also provides the rationale for abortion. The assertion that a woman has a right to do what she wants with her body assumes that her body is the only body implicated in the decision. However, it is evident that another body, that of the baby, a body distinct from hers, is profoundly affected by the decision to abort. That the baby comprises another person is especially undeniable in the case of a late-term abortion. Yet abortion advocates nonetheless cling to their “right to do what she wants with her own body” argument. Though this argument is flawed rationally, the mother viewing herself as the only real person comprises good American mania.
American mania also explains many other aspects of American culture.
But, it might be objected, no one adopting this manic approach to life can survive for long. This is true. That’s where the bipolar component of contemporary American culture comes in, which is the topic for tomorrow.