1: the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life
2: a way of life based on or suggesting the principles of hedonism
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a prude. I’m a huge fan of pleasure. And I’ve no problem with happiness, as long as it’s not confused with joy or acquisition of material possessions. Hedonism seems a few materialistic steps beyond pleasure, perhaps into the realm of ecstasy. And I love feeling ecstatic.
The issue is clearly one of degree. I suspect we enter difficult ethical terrain when pleasure becomes the sole or chief good in life. Defining moderation, as sought by Socrates, is a worthy pursuit (ditto for the remaining handful of Socrates’ pursuits, namely justice, good, virtue, piety, and courage). The ancient expression, “nothing too much” — unfortunately twisted into the contemporary phrase, “moderation in all things,” — has great merit.
I’m often asked if my message won’t lead people down the path of hedonism. My standard response is to ask when hedonism has been recently forsaken in the country of my birth. Most members of the privileged audience believe I’m joking. A short time later, we turn out the lights and the people in the audience drive home, stopping only for a quick bite to eat in one of the restaurants they pass on the way to their two-car garage in suburbia.
When did irony die? Did I miss the
funeral celebration of life?
Most people claim, contrary to Gonzo’s quote, that they detest violence. Yet these same people benefit from, and apparently appreciate, the oppression and early deaths of people who happen to live in the vicinity of fossil fuels requisite to maintenance of American Empire.
A line from long-dead American comedian Bill Hicks is apropos: “There are essentially only two drugs that Western civilization tolerates: caffeine from Monday to Friday to energize you enough to make you a productive member of society, and alcohol from Friday to Monday to keep you too stupid to figure out the prison that you are living in.” These are the drugs Thompson claimed he appreciated, in his clever, insightful manner. I suspect he agreed with Hicks, although we’ll probably never know.
So much for violence and drugs. What about insanity?
What more can I write or say about a culture gone mad? I’ve written thousands of words in dozens of essays about individual and societal madness. For more than two decades I’ve predicted an acceleration of violence as economic contraction proceeds. And yet the mad march on, believing themselves sane because their indoctrination is so stunningly complete.
There is no external escape. There is no place to hide. Only by introspection can one escape the madness of contemporary culture.
No drugs needed. And you can skip the alcohol, violence, and insanity, too.
My latest book is available in audio, and can be purchased here. Ms. Ladybug and Mr. Honeybee: A Love Story at the End of Time is intended for ages 11 and up.
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