Eat the Cookie

The best New Yorker article I read in months wasn’t about homeless teens or schizophrenia (actually that one was dope. Immunization genes (!!!) disproportionately influence the development of schizophrenia (!?!??) through neural structures that act as pruning shears such that certain regions of the brains of schizophrenic people are over-sheared like when my dad pruned the peach tree so aggressively it stopped bearing fruit).

It was most decidedly not the recent Gay Talese spew about a dude who bought and modified a motel in my town to spy on unwitting guests and catalog their proclivities that I cannot believe the friggin New Yorker friggin published. The sexism alone. The wholely undigested this-is-what-Talese-thinks-about-what-this-dude-thinks-about-himself, the very worst impulses of the New Journalism as if decades of feminism, gay rights, and sophisticated, elucidating long form nonfiction hadn’t happened, undigested like when the pet’s vomit looks like the pet’s food fresh out the bag plus some glistening. As if we don’t know better than to be seduced by two layers of un-self-conscious narcissistic privilege into our becoming voyeurs through an actually paid-for book excerpt whose disguise as journalism is as flimsy as the voyeur subject’s delusions of ethical social scientific research. I won’t even dignify it with a link.

Ahem.

Back at the ranch, Louis Menand reflects on ways our popular self-help books reflect the labor needs of our dominant economies.

Ford and Taylor maximized the efficiency of bodies laboring in factories.  How to Win Friends and Influence People Taylorized the the salesman in the grey flannel suit, disciplining his personality to a mid-century service economy.

Smarter Better Faster and The Power of Habit now Taylorize our minds to suit the demands of the millennial info economy, which requires a constant suppression of impulse. Which has also triggered a countermanding tsunami of impulse disorders, medicalized and anxious and violating our gig-labor, common core standardization, holistic wellness strictures that make me want to get a doughnut, a shot of bourbon, and a soundproofed perch to spy on my tenants downstairs. Menand notes,

It’s not surprising that every era has a different human model to suit a different theory of productivity, but it is mildly disheartening to realize how readily we import these models into our daily lives. We apply technologies of the self to our own selves, and measure our worth by the standards of the workplace. We can even be a little self-punishing in our efforts to become the sort of person who matches the model.

Corporate self-help books have been frightening us into being better peopleworkers for decades now, for as long as the internet has pulsed. MANAGE CHANGE they shout, red-faced. FLEXIBLE DYNAMIC SYNERGY INNOVATE they gasp. DON’T BE LEFT BEHIND.

A SUGAR-FREE LIFESTYLE IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK YOU’LL BE SO GRATEFUL THAT YOU MADE YOURSELF DO IT

I AM A HUMAN RESOURCE

DO I HAVE EXECUTIVE FUNCTION DISORDER

THINK FAST AND SLOW

Menand advises Smarter Better Faster guru Charles Duhigg to just eat the cookie. But how could he? When the cookie will kill him? With its gluten and its sugar and its chemical mimicry of the opioids that are killing our rural white people and its sitting all day and its compulsion to check Facebook instead of working on the spreadsheet? The 457-column spreadsheet that should just be a database but we can’t afford the data entry so it’s still a spreadsheet and I haven’t had a cookie from downstairs in a while they’re so good why can’t I stop thinking about the cookie? Even though Facebook is dying? So is Twitter? Like I will? If I keep eating the cookie?

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3 thoughts on “Eat the Cookie

  1. I really enjoyed this blog post; our economy’s labour needs are always an interesting topic! I’m a 15 year old with a financial and economic blog at shreysfinanceblog.com, and would really appreciate it if you could read and comment on some of my articles, and perhaps follow, reblog and share some of my posts on social media. Thanks again for this great post.

  2. Inder says:

    Hahaha! YES! Off to read that article!

    I know I’ve said this before, but I also see quality self-help as part of a long line of philosophical writings about how we can better ourselves. It’s easy to dismiss as a genre but it’s really the same thing that Montaigne, Benjamin Franklin, and Samuel Johnson were doing, when it comes down to it. The desire to change ourselves for the better is basic human nature – one of the better aspects of human nature. The rest of it is really only useful for anthropological information, for all the reasons you’ve described here. It would make a really fun and interesting anthropology paper about current business culture …

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