Monday, December 12, 2005

Frank Furedi ~ The Age of Unreason

from FrankFuredi.com

Celebrities, healers and new age gurus transmit the message that normal human beings cannot do it on their own.

To this day I am astonished when I hear that sensible, biologically mature adults allow themselves to be treated as if they were incompetent dimwits by a new army of professional surrogate parents. In days of old, traditional authority figures, like priests, instructed us how to behave in public and told us which rules to observe. Today’s experts are even freer with their advice. They do not simply tell us what to do and think, but also how to feel. A new army of life coaches, lifestyle gurus, professional celebrities, parenting coaches, super-nannies, makeover experts, healers, facilitators, mentors and guides regularly lecture us about the most intimate details of our existence. They are not simply interested in monitoring public behaviour but in colonising our internal life.

Life coaches ‘support’ us with making transitions in our private life while their colleagues feng shui our mundane existence. And every aspect of daily life has become a target of a makeover project. It is sad to see grown-up people needing somebody to show them how to shop for clothes. It is even more depressing when so many of us decide that we cannot make important decisions concerning our personal life without the benefit of a life coach, parenting coach or a high-tech psychic peddling gemstone therapy. This is not just deference to authority but the prostration of the adult imagination.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with expertise. We rely on mechanics to fix our cars and on dentists to extract our teeth. But the posse of 21st-century life experts is not so much in the business of fixing practical problems as in transforming us into needy children. Their enterprise depends on undermining and usurping confidence in our ability to conduct our affairs. The message they transmit is that normal human beings cannot do it on their own. That is why they assume that they possess the moral authority to dictate to us what to wear, how to love, how to parent, what not to eat and, most important of all, how to live. They are in the business of imposing a new form of authority over people’s everyday affairs. At least the message of self-help gurus in the 1980s and 1990s projected the mildly anarchic ideal of ‘be yourself’. In form at least the message was promoted through an anti-authoritarian vocabulary. In contrast, today’s makeover culture self-consciously commands you not to be yourself. On television they make fun of the way you dress, offer sarcastic references about your poor taste in the way you furnish your home and insist that you follow their superior regime of child-rearing. They know best, which is why some of them describe themselves, without a trace of irony, as gurus.

Deference to the authority of the celebrity, makeover guru or healer is underwritten by the decline in the influence of conventional forms of authority. That is why the frequently asserted claim that we live in an age characterised by the ‘death of deference’ bears little relationship to reality. Yes, it has become fashionable to treat traditional forms of authority — monarchy, church, parliament — with derision. Criticism of traditional institutions has become so prevalent that it bears all the hallmarks of classical conformism. Scientists, doctors and other professionals have also experienced an erosion of authority. But the diminishing influence of conventional authority has been paralleled by the rise of a new ‘alternative’ one. We don’t trust politicians but we have faith in the pronouncements of celebrities. We are suspicious of medical doctors but we feel comfortable with healers who mumble on about being ‘holistic’ and ‘natural’. We certainly don’t trust scientists working for the pharmaceutical industry but we are happy to listen to the disinterested opinion of a herbalist. And, of course, alternative food and other consumer products gain our confidence because ...they are alternative.

more here

8 comments:

Earl Jenkin™ said...

who reads this shit..erase this stupid blog..your taking up too much cyber space.

eugene ionesco said...

There is something to be said for adopting a liberal approach towards comment filtration, but detritus from the shallow end of the gene pool inevitably clogs up such well-intentioned systems. Casa del ionesco's new "American Psycho" pool filtration system promises "Less Than Zero" tolerance for contaminants.

Work in Progress said...

Hey, it all goes back to that ubiquitous bumper sticker from the '70s, "Question Authority" - no matter its source

Guidelines for life from a bumper sticker? Sure, I'm a product of my generation as much as the next one.

anonymous user said...

Hello again. Is there some particular reason for this spectacular (quantitative, though) increase of comments?

eugene ionesco said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
eugene ionesco said...

The answer's simple: a tenfold increase in traffic. The site jumped from 100 hits a day to over 1000 yesterday. It's a mixed blessing: I'd rather have quality than quantity, but the blog is still relatively new and I'm hopeful that a more discerning clientele may yet gravitate towards the site. Of course, we can only speculate as to the quality of the traffic which doesn't comment: the vocal minority are unlikely to be representative of the silent majority

Leader said...

Instead of perpetual juvenile ranting about the evils of our primitive public landlord societies, how about discussing a possible global league of ideal private cities that operate ideal private moneyless consumer-based economies and how these can be organized and built in our lifetime?
For starters, how about discussing your own immediate boycott of all those phony cult calendars and their false New Year festivities (like January 1) and your immediate personal adoption and use of the one true scientific solar calendar as the rational world standard calendar? Begin by reading the introduction and retrieving samples at http://groups.msn.com/WorldStandardCalendar.
You could then decorate these with business logos and pretty faces and e-mail these to friends and relatives and post these here and on binary newsgroups; then announce your adoption and boycotts on longer lasting text newsgroups and urge every reader to do the same. Maybe even announce your plans to host a true New Years Eve Party on Capricorn 1 (December 22) and announce to your employer that you will be taking your New Year holiday ten days early, rather than on the Vatican’s meaningless January 1.

eugene ionesco said...

Yeah, just let me finish sacrificing the last of these goats to Aphrodite and I'll jump right on it....