Saturday, July 4, 2015

Susan Neiman

Susan Neiman, an American philosopher who lives in Berlin and directs the Einstein Forum, is the author of Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age.

From her Q & A with Salon:

When was it that you realized that our society was caught in an adolescent or childlike stage? Did you have a gradual, slow-developing sense something was wrong, or did it hit you all at once?

It dawned on me slowly, but two experiences were probably pivotal. The first was being told, starting at around the age of 50, that I looked younger than my age. I knew that this was meant in a compliment; but as I finally said to a close friend, the sociologist Eva Illouz: don’t you realise that these kinds of compliments do us damage? If you want to tell me I look good I’m happy to hear it; but by equating looking good and looking young you are not only fetishizing youth, you are also implying we can only look good when we appear to be what we are not, namely young.

The second experience was watching my children enter their 20s, allegedly the best time of one’s life; observing and trying to support them in their struggles has brought back the memory of my own 20s more intensely, and how terribly hard those times are; and how much harder we make them by telling them to savour the best years of their lives. Of course at the time I thought I was the only one failing to savour those years, which made the experience worse.

But very few people who are honest would actually like to repeat those years, and empirical studies show that people generally get happier as they get older. There are good reasons why those years are hard, and they have nothing to do with the financial crisis; young people are...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue