Because of all this outsourcing and privatizing of social responsibility, all this onus placed on individuals. It makes social movements, movements of solidarity, harder to create. In the last Gilded Age, the Progressive Movement changed politics, driven by social solidarity and evangelism. Same went for the Great Depression, driven by organized labor and grassroots democratic socialists. Can there be another wave? A Green New Deal? What quorum of power will drive this most critical turn? Could it be the first generations in human history that are being brought up in a world so bleak that extinction is literally possible?
Yet we are trained by the stories of this self-styled individualism, its attendant self-obsession over personal wounds and desires that must be faced. As if stories were there to serve only a private therapeutic function. This basic level of selfish heroism is in fact a fantasy. And perhaps, I suppose it could be argued, a necessary one in some respects because it is itself a bulwark against an unbearable reality of our own foolishness, our own meaninglessness, our own boredom, the slow tedium of everyday life. We are, perhaps all, in fact becoming Walter Mittys – or perhaps a better more recent example is Sam Lowry from the film Brazil – one of the quintessential American heroic tropes. We’re all timid bored milquetoasts trapped in an addicted consumer-driven neoliberal dystopian nightmare who increasingly rely on heroic fantasy to cope with reality becoming more and more unbearable.