One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy

An email from a friend:

I’ve been thinking a lot about the quote you had from one of your friends on your blog, and how the struggle she’s describing isn’t really any different than the struggle we all face in all fields (healthcare, teaching, education, even finance).

There’s ownership in the struggle to treat patients of every shape, size, and economic class; there’s ownership in the struggle for the millions of teenagers looking to achieve certain scores in the SAT to get into college; there’s ownership in the day-to-day struggles for millions of business people to make money because for them, the most important thing is providing for their family.

I can think of lots of examples in my life – everything from stock market trading, to my med school battles now, to teaching juvie in DC – where I’ve been pushed, and I’ve had to become smarter, more resilient, and push back harder.

What I’m saying is in all of these examples, one possible interpretation could be that I was trying to “make ends meet,” but another equally plausible interpretation is that I was invested, dedicated, and passionate about each one of these enterprises. I made it my own because i was intellectually and emotionally engaged. I didn’t feel alienated, I didn’t feel mislead or had any kind of “false consciousness” due to some larger cultural, capitalistic phenomenon.

So what I’m saying is this: if your friend feels passionate and alive while living out in the woods – great for her. But is she alone? Is she with one or two people? And what kind of phenomenon emerges when one is alienated, removed, and isolated from the greater society if there is, in fact, no larger community that she’s living in. There’s alienation and false consciousness there, no? And most importantly – I think there’s no real difference between the resilience, strength, and agency she feels and what I’ve felt in all my endeavors thus far.

Then there’s this: there are people who work for Wal-Mart stocking shelves, people who have to put themselves in dangerous positions doing construction work, people who mop floors against their will – these people are all oppressed and subjugated by society because capitalism requires this underclass. And as educated people, I believe it’s our responsibility to eliminate this.

But to say that we won’t participate in society because this kind of capitalistic oppression exists – when one has the education and tools to not only participate – and possibly help eliminate this underclass – is wrong. and I’ll leave it at that.


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