All the Trouble in the World

All the Trouble in the World is a great PJ O’Rourke book, which I highly recommend, but that’s not important right now.

It occurred to me the reason we’ve got to this particular state of shambles is that we’ve given in to the therapeutic/do-gooder notion that we have to solve all the trouble in the world.

This is a relatively new notion.  it used to be, when the West was mostly Christian (with a smattering of Jewish) that we assumed the troubles the world is full of would get solved when the redemptive event happened, be it the second coming, or the first, or whatever that will return the world to its perfect state under divine rule.  And until then, fortunately, anyone who had it too bad on Earth got rewarded in heaven.

The problem is once you stop believing in that, no injustice, no ill, no lack of acceptance, no undeserved hurt could be ignored any longer.  It all had to be fixed, right now.  Justice had to be brought to every little creature.  EVERYONE had to be happy right now, because there as no other time to be happy in.  YOLO, am I right?

Except that humans are still humans.  You can’t make everyone happy and fulfilled.  H*ll, I’m my kids’ mother and have known them since they were born, and I can’t choose what would make them happy and fulfilled.  I’d never have picked the really hard paths they chose.  Why Robert thinks bliss is a packed ER room is beyond me.
Imagine me picking professions, payment, etc for total strangers.

And in the end that’s what that comes to.  People picking in what way strangers are to be happy.

Which means people end up very unhappy indeed.

But even on their own, people can’t be happy because not everyone can end up doing what they want/marrying whom they want/living the way they want.  A decent respect for the opinions of others might not hold us back but other things will.  There are only so many people who can be astronauts after all, say.  And no, not everyone can be a billionaire.

This workaday world doesn’t not have enough opportunities/rewards to make everyone happy.  Most of my friends had instead to make their own happiness, after their first run at careers/marriage/motherhood/whatever turned out quite different from what they wanted.  But they coped, they grew, and most of them found another kind of happiness, doing something else that was possible for them.

In most of the world that is called “being a grownup.”

The problem is that there are people who think you should be protected from every disappointment, every buffet, every slight.  Everyone who wants something must be given it.  No one can be told no, ever.

The problem is that when you do that to people they are not happy.  Sometimes what you want is not what you need.  BUT more importantly, you never learn to cope, with even minor set backs.  So they have no give.  The most minor issue will break them.  It’s no surprise they feel micro aggressions.  The princess can feel the pea under forty mattresses, after all.  People who’ve never been cut will howl at a pinprick.

But it corrupts the do-gooders too.  Their lack of success stings them.  Understand, most of them start doing this out of genuine good intentions.  And then it fails.  Someone else must be doing this.  It must be them, the haters, the wreckers, the saboteurs.

Because it can’t be human nature.

It all starts with good intentions.  And it will destroy us unless we rub their noses in the fact they’re paving the way to hell.

69 thoughts on “All the Trouble in the World

  1. I can’t choose what would make them happy and fulfilled.

    No, but you can choose what they should find happy-making and fulfilling, and browbeat them into conforming to your prescription raise their consciousness until they conform to your superior enlightenment.

    Funny how the meaning of enlightened has altered as we move away from Justice in Heaven to Justice on Earth.

    1. Now that I think about it, I find it a tad amusing that Sarah wonders “Why the heck does my son want to be a doctor?” when the stereotypical mother *wants* her son to be a doctor or a lawyer.

  2. It occurred to me the reason we’ve got to this particular state of shambles is that we’ve given in to the therapeutic/do-gooder notion that we have to solve all the trouble in the world.

    I think that part of our problem arose when mankind did make some incredible advances against some of the great ills around us — think safer factories and farms and the reduction of disease and starvation — and we got it into our minds that this meant we could solve everything.

    1. The scary thing is this hooks in rather well with something I read about the issue with modern liberalism being that they can’t accept that evil is a thing– we’re able to fix all (well, a whole bunch of) the It’s Just Bad stuff, but then we run into EVIL and it’s like… waaaaaa?

      1. Well, it ties in rather nicely with the concept I’ve heard lately that they don’t mind evil in of itself, if they can use it for ‘their’ end goals, but rather that ‘evil’ is a word they use as a stick to beat their ideological enemies with.

        1. When I was a teenager, I developed a bit of personal slang where I would describe something as “evil” merely because I had a mild dislike to it. One day I realized that this trivializes the word evil, so I decided I shouldn’t do that (although to this day I probably still do it once in a while).

          It’s probably easy to tell the difference between slang use of “evil”, and actual evil, so my concerns might not be justified. Then again, there’s something wrong with using the same word for the flavor and texture of peas on the one hand, and the results of Nazi and Communist rule on the other….

          I’m not sure where I was going with this, except possibly to say that describing your ideological enemies as “evil” solely because you disagree with them both lessens the impact of the word and dehumanizes your ideological enemies…which, ironically enough, makes it easier to do evil things to your ideological enemies….

  3. What you describe here is in many ways similar to the clinical psychological condition known as “infantilism.”

    If you read the last comment there, by “Untold Wisdom,” you’ll get a long description of the condition. While many of the aspects of it aren’t general among the left, many others most decidedly are. The worst thing about the current social condition is that the infantilism we’re seeing so much of isn’t so much the result of some inherent dysfunction of the individual as it is something that was forced upon society by an evil (yes, I’m using that word precisely; I believe them to be evil, not merely confused) cohort of people wishing to control all the rest of us and everything we do.

  4. As soon as someone decides that the world, and the people in it, can be perfected/made happy/improved enough to make all the bad things go away, disaster ensues. I firmly believe that whether or not you take the account of Adam’s Fall in Genesis as literal or as a metaphor for the perils of free will, it goes a very long way toward explaining “why do people do that.” So long as we are allowed to pick what we want to do, who we want to do it with, how we want to do it… something’s going to go “sproing!”, or someone will mess up, or someone else will be unhappy. The world is not perfect, it can’t be made perfect, and the best we can do is take a deep breath, put our shoulder to the wheel, and try to make it better in our own little corner of the place. And laugh at the absurdities, follies, and outright foolishness of it.

    I was quite happy when the Car Shop turned the TV from the local news to “The Kitten Hour” yesterday morning. No idea what channel, but it was refreshing to glance up and see a kitten-cam instead of pundits. And you know what? The guys were smiling, and nodding, and seemed to enjoy the antics as they went back and forth doing their thing in the parts department and service desks. A little humor and cuteness on a Friday is not such a bad thing.

  5. They resist us “people don’t like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do. Don’t run. Don’t walk. We’re in their homes and in their minds and we haven’t the right.” – River Tam, Serenity

  6. Q. We have a 6-year-old who, for the past six months or so, has acted frustrated and apathetic about most things if she’s not doing exactly what she wants. We are not extravagant, but we live a comfortable life and want to do fun things with the kids. But it’s hard when we feel like it’s not being appreciated.

    A. So, past generations of parents: pretty unconcerned with making their children happy. Parents now? Often consumed with it.

    Whether it’s outings, parties or vacations, our parenting lives have become completely child-focused. The minutiae of weekends have been designed around making our children happy, and it’s a mess.
    I think I found this link through Ann Althouse blog but the question, and astute answer, is perfect example of what is happening now.

    1. Yup. So many parents seem to want to be “friends” to their children. Children don’t need their parents to be “friends,” they need them to be parents. Teach them right from wrong, make sure they understand that their actions have consequences (and make sure those consequences occur when necessary), and encourage and be proud of proper actions and speech and discourage and be ashamed of improper actions and speech by your children. Children can almost always make friends from their cohort; they don’t need their parents to become surrogate children just so they can have “friends.”

      1. You wait until your children are adults to make friends with them. It isn’t healthy for you to be their friend sooner.

        Oh you can make friends with your grandkids.

          1. Becoming friends with your adult children is usually a side-effect of working to raise them right, as I understand it.

            In fact, there are many things in life that work that way, such as the pursuit of happiness. Make happiness your goal: you’re going to be so stressed out constantly saying, “I want to be happy, I want to be happy” that you probably won’t make yourself happy. But make something else your goal, something that challenges you — and you’ll find that the pursuit of that goal has had the side effect of making you happy. E.g., someone who really wants to be a professional golfer will enjoy the time spent at the driving range working on his swing, and will also be happy about the visible progress he makes as his average golf scores drop from year to year.

            Likewise, as I understand it, people who try hard to be “friends” with their children usually end up spoiling them, and spoiled kids rarely appreciate their parents later in life. But people who try to raise their kids to become good, moral adults will often find that their good, moral adult kids appreciate what their parents did for them, and are grateful. And grateful, appreciative people are easy to become friends with.

          2. I am just establishing friendship with my kids. But they are adults, went off to war, and have created their own lives. Now we relate as adults; not so much parent and child.

        1. Oh, yes. It’s especially unhealthy when you regard their gratitude to you as the point of giving them a good life.

          Not to mention thinking that there’s some wrong with someone’s being unhappy doing things she doesn’t want to do. I’ve seen some VERY unhealthy stuff when a parent thinks she’s entitled to decide what the child likes.

        2. Exactly. I am very dear friends with my daughter now that she is 35+ but when she was a teenager, living in my house. “Darling, this household is not a participatory democracy. It is a benign dictatorship – and YOU are not the dictator.”
          Worked well for us. I also gave her permission as a teenager to cite me as the baddie, if anything came up that she was being pressured by her peers to participate in. “Gosh-darn, I CAN’T do that – my Mom would KILL me!”
          That also worked out well.

          1. My mom said something similar.

            I don’t think I ever had to use her as an excuse, but ti was comforting to know that I could appeal to a higher authority, whose word my peer group was not permitted to contravene.

      2. Friends are people who say things like, “What could go wrong,” “Nobody will ever know,” and “I double-dog dare you to go ring Boo Radley’s doorbell.”

        Parents exist to say, “What were you thinking,” “Stop that right now” and “That’s coming out of your allowance.” They also say, “It’ll be okay; you’ll recover.”

        1. Maybe that’s the problem at my house:

          “All right, son, you want to X. What could go wrong?”

          I expect a list, with solutions and/or preventions, or forget doing X.

      3. > Teach them right from wrong

        To far too many people, right and wrong are abstractions with little relevance to their lives, which are mostly dominated by “do what I want” and “I want X, right now.”

      4. At this point in time I am good friends with my parents, but we are also all adults, which changes the relationship dynamics. When I was still a minor, living under their roof? They were parents first and I am so grateful for that.

  7. Part of the problem is the self esteem movement. Self esteem is a natural result of successfully achieving a difficult goal. Self seteem promoted by by others for no good reason just sours into egotism. These fragile people actually believe they they are deep thinking philosophers. They have no clue that they can’t just declaim to the world the solution to happiness and make it happen. Universities take egotistical all knowing freshmen and spend four or five years stroking their idiot brainwashed egos instead of educating them.

    1. But you see, that isn’t true self-esteem. That’s just straight-up egotism. True self-esteem comes from accomplishing something that neither you nor (perhaps) anyone else thought you could, and knowing that you did it through your own efforts.

      I once had a friend who worked in the Pennsylvania corrections system. When I asked her about the movement to increase the self-esteem of inmates, she nearly exploded. She said something on the order of, “They don’t need more self-esteem! The big problem is that every one of them already thinks too much of himself. They all believe that anything the do or want is their right, and anything bad that happens to them couldn’t possibly be their fault. Nope, what we ought to do is knock their unwarranted self-esteem right out of them. Then make them earn it back!”

      1. I am reminded of how much of my high opinion of myself failing college courses ran out of me. And I would have said I was humble prior to.

    2. It isn’t simply the self esteem movement — the greater problem is the cargo cult thinking that promotes it, just as that thought tanked the housing market by claiming owning a house would make people responsible, not grasping that it is being responsible that enables folk to own houses.

      Their grasp of cause & effect is, at best, tenuous.

  8. I have a quibble about the closing part of this article.

    I think that while many of the supposed do-gooders say they have good intentions, in many cases their actual intentions are about their own gratification, whether to get the accolades of their peers, making money, or being the ones in power. “I want to help people” is just the convenient excuse to hide behind.

    1. That falls into the “feature, not bug” category.

      BTW: You’re noh body? Funny, you don’t look Japanese.

    2. I think a lot of people are unable to slice finely enough to discern the differences between those concepts.

    3. I’ve always thought it was similar to the old catholic (?) practice of Indulgences. “I went on Crusade and killed many Muslims, so my future sins are forgiven”.

      Likewise “so maybe I *did* make a pass at our babysitter, but I took stand for BlackLivesMatter last week, so I’m not a total douche, right?”

      It’s about moral offsets. Smack a conservative “nazi” over the head with a bicycle lock today so they can be a selfish jerk in their daily lives guilt-free.

      1. Just call it the “pop culture practice of indulgences.”

        Actual indulgences are *goes and gets the exact line* a remission of the temporal punishment due to sin, the guilt of which has been forgiven.

        Best way I’ve seen to explain it is think of sin as being like breaking a window; I can forgive you for breaking it, but it still needs to be fixed. An indulgence is someone else fixing it.

      2. Indulgences can only work backwards, because the first requirement is repentance and forgiveness. And if you do not intend to refrain from the sin in the future, you have not repented.

  9. “And no, not everyone can be a billionaire”.
    Zimbabwe is just a plane trip away.
    And, besides, everybody knows that real billionairism has never actually been tried in practice.

  10. I don’t think my brain is wired for happiness anyway. At this point, I’d just like to feel peaceful.

  11. Pure speculation on my part, but I would strongly suspect that Robert’s idea of sheer bliss would be leaving an empty ER that was full when he started, going home to Blake, and saying “Honey, I’m home, and I saved them all.”

  12. While Everyone is here let me ask something completely off topic (but on the general theme of message fiction vs fun fiction with a message):

    Is it just me or is the Angry Birds Movie an amazing metaphor for the state of Europe right now regarding Muslim immigration, their conservatives and nationalist right, the hollowness of mainstream politicians, and thier conflicted feelings for America. I was stunned such a movie could be made. Or am I just seeing canals on Mars?

    1. Could be either. The makers will, most likely, NEVER admit if it was fully intentional. It could also have been kind of subconsciously so, but on the surface level accidental. That latter seems to happen quite a lot – people tell different stories when they don’t try to “educate” and just tell a story, and then maybe later notice it could be interpreted in a way they would never intentionally meant, but I suspect it’s more often than not a case of them actually understanding the issues on some level while being unwilling to admit that they do, also to themselves, because not doing that and sticking to the party line makes their lives a whole lot easier. But their subconscious beliefs can come out in their stories when they don’t guard against it.

      Or it could have been an accident and they do fully believe in the party line an all levels, and didn’t notice how their story could be interpreted.

      But I kind of believe it was either intentional or subconsciously intentional. Or maybe hope. Because if so there may still be hope for us. But a couple of the writers seem to be Finns, and that type of veiled middle finger thing would be a rather Finnish thing to do, and the screenplay is by somebody who has also written for “King of the Hill”, which, as far as I understand, was sort of conservative or at least showed conservatives in more positive light than most animated television shows.

  13. “The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for them, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn. Well, they were going to destroy it again, were they ‘ this garden Earth, civilized and knowing, to be torn apart again that man might hope again in wretched darkness.”

    –Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz

  14. The princess can feel the pea under forty mattresses, after all.

    Nice metaphor. Problem is, even after they’re allegedly adults, the still expect the queen to acknowledge their suffering as confirmation of their princessness (princessity? princessitude?) and reward them.

    1. and they wonder why their bestest job is saying “do you want a croissant with that?”

  15. This is a relatively new notion. it used to be, when the West was mostly Christian (with a smattering of Jewish) that we assumed the troubles the world is full of would get solved when the redemptive event happened, be it the second coming, or the first, or whatever that will return the world to its perfect state under divine rule. And until then, fortunately, anyone who had it too bad on Earth got rewarded in heaven.

    The problem is once you start believing in that, no injustice, no ill, no lack of acceptance, no undeserved hurt could be ignored any longer. It all had to be fixed, right now.

    Shoot WordPress in the head bury the wretched creature! It ate the transitional sentence that should have contrasted these two paragraghs or maybe my browser is showing its age; it has to reload Ace of Spades HQ a lot.

        1. Captain Obvious is heavily overbooked these days, since so many need the glaringly obviously obvious spelled out for them in detail.

          Captain Redundant is similarly doubly overbooked.

          OTOH, I’m pretty sure Captain Common Sense is enjoying excessive leisure time.

          1. I think captain obvious is a major outranking captain redundant. Corporal Common Sense has no real power at all.

              1. Obviously Captain Obvious is a Navy O-6, while Captains Redundant and Common Sense are O-3s in Any Other Service, and Captain Redundant has Date Of Rank.

  16. That last part, the scapegoating impulse, is a point that has escaped me, and most other observers (I think). Very good work!

  17. The old utopian entitlement to happiness. Cause unhappiness can’t possible have anything to do with me or my choices.

      1. Or just toughen me up. Being tough, in itself, is a valuable tool. And someone who doesn’t have toughness in their toolbox is gonna have issues with solving real life problems.

  18. > It occurred to me the reason we’ve got to this particular state of shambles is that we’ve given in to the therapeutic/do-gooder notion that we have to solve all the trouble in the world.
    It’s merely a sum of old good Phariseeism and delusions of grandeur.
    “I am holier than thou, much less All Those Unwashed Barbarians, therefore I get to tell everyone what to do” + “I can shape the world to my wishes as the chosen One”.

    As such, it has a pathetic corollary, quietly popping up the moment it runs into anything big and really scary: “if there was something wrong, Great Me would not allow it, THEREFORE almost everything is just fine”.

  19. you should be protected from every disappointment, every buffet…
    But I LIKE buffets! A little of this, a little of that, going back for more of the other thing. Why do I need to be protected from them? Aaaaarrrrggghhhh!!!

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