GET UNHAPPY!: Insightful, challenging article from the New York Times Magazine (which I found on Arts & Letters Daily) suggests that our problem is too much self-esteem, not too little. The author offers blend of psychoanalytic research, quick-and-dirty philosophy, and common sense. (Although she traces the history of the self-esteem movement to Ralph “Transparent Eyeball” Emerson, she doesn’t mention the Ayn Rand–> Nathaniel Branden–> self-esteem movement daisy chain.) My elementary school ran a self-esteem program called “I am soMEbody!”, promoted by Jesse Jackson himself, and I can tell you it did about as much for my self-esteem as a snorkel does for a Bedouin. If you want real insight into the “self,” why Americans are obsessed with it, and whether it should esteem itself, you could try Walker Percy’s Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book. Or you could just read St. Francis (“If God can work through me, he can work through anyone”; “Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self”).

About Eve Tushnet

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