We tell each other that our reality is what we make of it, that if we just knew The Secret, we could generate our own prosperity, that God would meet us halfway and provide. We’ve mesmerized ourselves, told ourselves that everything was possible. This is the utopia of self-determination, where we could all be winners. We encouraged each other’s self esteem, told ourselves bromides about our own pride. We told ourselves not to focus on the negatives, only the positives. We were superstitious of negative thinking, told ourselves that it wasn’t okay to be down. That depression was negative, not a normal human feeling indicating that something was wrong. We treated the symptom, took some pills and a dose of pop psychology, never asked what was wrong, never figured it was a sick culture at work. We, without basis, told ourselves that we should be happy, think positively. We put up signs in our houses, “live, laugh, love,” we prayed away negative thoughts as sinful. We went to Tony Robbins seminars, Joel Osteen, Amway, Creflo Dollar, bought books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
Why, we may ask, is satire news prone to this kind of burn out? I propose that it is prone because it really offers no substantive challenge to the status quo. Sure, it can snidely critique the ludicrous or offensive behavior and activities of politicians and elites, but stripped of this, it has no real point of view. As Chris Hedges noted, these “liberals are tolerated by the capitalist elites because they do not question the virtues of corporate capitalism, only its excesses, and call for tepid and ineffectual reforms.” So it becomes, instead, an activity of cynical liberal identity politics, because their shows, whether being run by Viacom like at Comedy Central, or at CBS, are part of the same system of wealthy coastal elites that rural America resents.
Basically, people are paradoxically engaging in a consumer take ethic in order to be great in a give ethic, which is, of course, the gift giving virtue represented by the largess of Santa Claus. It’s this precise ironic dualism that our sudden contemporary fascination with the lesser known tradition of Krampuslauf finds its proper and welcome home.