Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Today's travesty: warning, rant within

When I sign out of my Hotmail, it throws me into the MSN home page, and sometimes I glance at the headlines, much the way one looks through magazines in a waiting room. You know, they're there.

Today's travesty is on "The Things That Make Us Happy." I'm always vaguely curious about what so-called experts think they know about me, so I succumbed to the temptation to wastmy time. The first clue was when they said basically that being good-looking makes people happy, but not in and of itself. And in some circumstances, money can make people happy, but not necessarily.

This is like "cold reading" fortune-telling, where the reader tells you there's someone important in your life: a man, or maybe it's a woman. And that you're a confident person, but sometimes you're insecure. Everything is hedged, but in a way that doesn't draw attention to itself, so they're basically saying nothing, but it makes people go, hey, yeah, that's me!

I guess that's to be expected, but then, they tackle education:

"In the 1950s, book learning brought happiness, but a college education no longer lifts well-being on its own. Education opens the door to a better career, but it also fosters higher expectations that may be disappointed." (http://health.msn.com/health-topics/mental-health/slideshow.aspx?cp-documentid=100210274&imageindex=4)

I'm no expert, not even a fake one on a web site (sorry if anybody out there thought otherwise - ha!) But the idea that education, book learning, is supposed to have some one-to-one correlation with financial success (which I guess is what they mean by "better career," although I've seen plenty of evidence that "good careers" don't make people happy) is the sort of modern-life idea that fosters unhappiness.

Here's an example of the mass media contributing to the idea that things only have value as far as they have a practical use, a dollar or status value attached. Instead of things being valuable for what they are, and having intrinsic worth, which a good education does. (By which I mean one that causes a person to learn, and think for themselves).

Actually, even the fact that people talk about education instead of knowledge... urgh. Having curiosity about the world, wanting to know about things beyond one's own little village existence (sorry, still under the influence of that Village Gods book), trying to understand things and develop one's logical reasoning, can only be good things. I don't give a shit what they do for my career.

Oops, I just inadvertently summed up my entire life.

But just to hammer home the message, later on they add: "Smarts have only a weak effect on happiness; being brainy may decrease satisfaction by raising your expectations and making you more aware of your shortcomings."

They couldn't be more open about this. "Don't learn! Don't read! Don't think! It'll only raise your expectations, and you'll be disappointed!"

WTF? And BTW, these were all the reasons trumpeted in the 17th century/18th century England for why women and the lower classes shouldn't be educated. They thought they were bettering themselves, but the upper classes (who already had those opportunities) just thought it would make the lower classes more frustrated with their supposedly inevitable lots in life.

And going back to check something, I see this article was actually brought to MSN (probably via corporate synergy) from Psychology Today. So educated people, who want you to read their magazines, are getting paid to tell us not to bother with education.

Maybe if people read or think, they'll realize the worthlessness of articles like this. Read, people! Get an education! Think! Put these condescending losers out of a job!

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