“Americans Are in a Way Crazy” — David Foster Wallace

Chapter 19 David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King (or, §19, if you prefer the book’s conceit) begins with this paragraph—

‘There’s something very interesting about civics and selfishness, and we get to ride the crest of it. Here in the US, we expect government and law to be our conscience. Our superego, you could say. It has something to do with liberal individualism, and something to do with capitalism, but I don’t understand much of the theoretical aspect—what I see is what I live in. Americans are in a way crazy. We infantilize ourselves. We don’t think of ourselves as citizens—parts of something larger to which we have profound responsibilities. We think of ourselves as citizens when it comes to our rights and privileges, but not our responsibilities. We abdicate our civic responsibilities to the government and expect the government, in effect, to legislate morality. I’m talking mostly about economics and business, because that’s my area.’

‘What do we do to stop the decline?’

I plan to write more about this later — Tea Party, Real America, all that slang — but I’m tapped out right now. Back to school, syllabi to stick in the toaster oven, too much red tonight, all that jazz.

6 thoughts on ““Americans Are in a Way Crazy” — David Foster Wallace”

    1. I guess we could also think about not taking on unsympathetic, heartless attitudes towards people or things we don’t understand in a vapid and random way such as asides while commenting on blogs? Or, you know, not.


  1. ‘What do we do to stop the decline?’ Getting better at counteracting corporations getting better at seducing us into thinking the way they think? What is that thinking? That self-interest is good and necessary? Does declaring the opposite help? Is it anything else but the flipside of the same coin? Is it about that self being locked up at the center of one’s own existence? Is loss of self the way to counteract the imposition of the way coporation think? But isn’t loss of self precisely what they produce?


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