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Barbara Ehrenreich's Radical Critique of Wellness Culture | The New Republic
"Ehrenreich contemplates with some satisfaction not just the approach of her own death but also the passing of her generation. As the boomers have aged, denial of death, she argues, has moved to the center of American culture, and a vast industrial ecosystem has bloomed to capitalize on it. Across twelve chapters, Ehrenreich surveys the health care system, the culture of old age, the world of “mindfulness,” and the interior workings of the body itself, and finds a fixation on controlling the body, encouraged by cynical and self-interested professionals in the name of “wellness.” Without opposing reasonable, routine maintenance, Ehrenreich observes that the care of the self has become a coercive and exploitative obligation: a string of endless medical tests, drugs, wellness practices, and exercise fads that threaten to become the point of life rather than its sustenance. Someone, obviously, is profiting from all this.

While innumerable think pieces have impugned millennials’ culture of “self-care”—and argued that the generation born in the 1980s and ’90s is fragile, consumerist, and distracted—Ehrenreich redirects such criticisms toward an older crowd. Her book sets out to refute the idea that it’s possible to control the course and shape of one’s own biological or emotional life, and dissects the desire to do so. “Agency is not concentrated in humans or their gods or favorite animals,” she writes. “It is dispersed throughout the universe, right down to the smallest imaginable scale.” We are not, that is, in charge of ourselves."

"While workout culture requires the strict ordering of the body, mindfulness culture has emerged to subject the brain to similarly stringent routines. Mindfulness gurus often begin from the assumption that our mental capacities have been warped and attenuated by the distractions of our age. We need re-centering. Mindfulness teaches that it is possible through discipline and practice to gain a sense of tranquility and focus. Such spiritual discipline, often taking the form of a faux-Buddhist meditation program, can of course be managed through an app on your phone, or, with increasing frequency, might be offered by your employer. Google, for example, keeps on staff a “chief motivator,” who specializes in “fitness for the mind,” while Adobe’s “Project Breathe” program allocates 15 minutes per day for employees to “recharge their batteries.” This fantastical hybrid of exertion and mysticism promises that with enough effort , you too can bend your mind back into shape.

“Whichever prevails in the mind-body duality, the hope, the goal—the cherished assumption,” Ehrenreich summarizes, “is that by working together, the mind and the body can act as a perfectly self-regulating machine.” In this vision, the self is a clockwork mechanism, ideally adapted by natural selection to its circumstances and needing upkeep only in the form of juice cleanses, meditation, CrossFit, and so on. Monitor your data forever and hope to live forever. Like workout culture, wellness is a form of conspicuous consumption. It is only the wealthy who have the resources to maintain the illusion of an integral and bounded self, capable of responsible self-care and thus worthy of social status. The same logic says that those who smoke (read: poor), or don’t eat right (poor again), or don’t exercise enough (also poor) have personally failed and somehow deserve their health problems and low life expectancy."

"Ehrenreich’s political agenda goes largely unstated in Natural Causes, but is nonetheless central to her argument. Since at least the mid-1970s, she has been engaged in a frustrated dialogue with her peers about how they choose to live. In her view, the New Left failed to grasp that its own professional-class origins, status anxieties, and cultural pretensions were the reason that it had not bridged the gap with the working class in the 1960s and 1970s. It was this gap that presented the New Right with its own political opportunity, leading to the ascent of Ronald Reagan and fueling decades of spiraling inequality, resurgent racism, and the backlash against feminism.

The inability of her contemporaries to see themselves with enough distance—either historical distance or from the vantage of elsewhere in the class system—is the subject of some of her best books: Fear of Falling, a study of middle-class insecurity, and Nickel and Dimed, her best-selling undercover report on the difficulties of low-wage employment. At some level, it’s what all her work has been about. In the final pages of Natural Causes, Ehrenreich stages a version of this lifelong dialogue with her peers. She tries to convince them, in the last act, to finally concede that the world does not revolve around them. They can, she proposes, depart without Sturm und Drang.
Two years ago, I sat in a shady backyard around a table of friends, all over sixty, when the conversation turned to the age-appropriate subject of death. Most of those present averred that they were not afraid of death, only of any suffering that might be involved in dying. I did my best to assure them that this could be minimized or eliminated by insisting on a nonmedical death, without the torment of heroic interventions to prolong life by a few hours or days.

It’s a final, existential version of the same argument she’s made forever: for members of her generation and class to see themselves with a touch more perspective.

Despite Ehrenreich’s efforts, this radical message hasn’t resonated among them as widely as she hoped. She has, meanwhile, worked on building institutions that may foster a different outlook in the years to come. In 2012, she founded the Economic Hardship Reporting Project, an impressive, foundation-backed venture to support journalists reporting on inequality. Ever alert to the threat of social inequality and the responsibility of middle-class radicals, she served until just last year as honorary co-chair of Democratic Socialists of America—that renewed organ of radicalism for the millennial precariat. She is not giving up. “It’s one thing,” she writes, “to die into a dead world and, metaphorically speaking, leave one’s bones to bleach on a desert lit only by a dying star. It is another thing to die into the actual world, which seethes with life, with agency other than our own, and at the very least, with endless possibility.”

It takes a special kind of courage to maintain such humility and optimism across a whole lifetime of losing an argument and documenting the consequences. Barbara Ehrenreich doesn’t meditate. She doesn’t believe in the integral self, coherent consciousness, or the mastery of spirit over matter. She thinks everything is dissolving and reforming, all the time. But she’s not in flux—quite the opposite. She’s never changed her mind, lost her way, or, as far as I can tell, even gotten worn out. There’s the tacit lesson of Natural Causes, conveyed by the author’s biography as much as the book’s content: To sustain political commitment and to manifest social solidarity—fundamentally humble and collective ways of being in the world—is the best self-care."
barbaraehrenreich  mindfulness  wellness  culture  health  boomers  babyboomers  2018  gabrielwinant  politics  self-care  death  generations  perspective  socialism  inequality  dsa  radicalism  millennials  medicine  balance  body  bodies  lifeexpectancy  exercise  self-improvement  westernmedicine  feminism 
14 hours ago by robertogreco
Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation |
Time magazine published the first big missive in the now-commonplace generational war between Millennials and Boomers. Joel Stein's "The Me Me Me Generation" was the perfect bromide for an aging ruling class frustrated with how the younger generation was responding to a post-recession labor market.
millennials  boomers 
8 days ago by gdw
Millennials and the new magnetism of mid-size cities - Curbed
If, 10 years ago, you had asked 28-year-old Sarah Luckett Bhatia if she’d eventually return to her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, she “would have laughed in your face.” Even just a few years ago, the prospects of coming home to Derby City would have seemed slim.
15 days ago by mayrav
How the baby boomers — not millennials — screwed America - Vox
They drained the world and now we're stuck cleaning up the mess. It didn't have to be this way.

(The interview notes but does not dive into that they mostly mean white professional boomers.)
vox  millennials  usa  via:aaronlmgoodwin  politics  interview  babyboomers 
19 days ago by UltraNurd
Nuestros hijos, los microinfluencers en casa - Roastbrief
"En el futuro, si se quiere llegar a estos jóvenes, se tiene que poner especial atención a la generación de contenidos de calidad en todas las plataformas y redes. Por ejemplo, los e-games son sumamente populares entre los niños, quienes son más susceptibles de ser influenciados en una partida porque su youtuber favorito lleva tal camiseta o tales zapatillas mientras juega que lo que pueden ver en la desplazada televisión."
socialmedia  internet  business  millennials  influencers 
25 days ago by betobeto
Changing the Future for Gen Z Girls: Why They Need Better Female Role Models | HuffPost
It’s 13 years since the launch of Facebook. Since then we’ve seen a flurry of other social media launches, shaping the way an entire generation (Gen Z), connects, interacts and feels about one another and themselves.
feminism  gender  genz  girls  millennials  women 
29 days ago by mayrav
Why millennials aren't happy that Gen Z is entering the workforce
Just as managers hesitated when millennials were first joining the workforce, millennial professionals are now wary of the incoming Generation Z. Last year, the first group of Gen Z-ers graduated from college and entered the workplace.
gen  z  millennials 
29 days ago by mayrav

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