The Omnipotent Self

One of the deadliest components of neoliberal mentality is the idea that everything that happens to us is the result of our choices. We have to be good entrepreneurs of our selves, exercising careful self-management. If we do everything right, things will turn out great. If we mismanage, we’ll suffer. This means that whenever things go bad, it’s your own fault.

The problem with this way of thinking is that often terrible things happen to great people who don’t deserve them. We need to place such events within a meaningful narrative to help our psyche absorb the shock and not unravel. And the narrative that neoliberalism provides stresses the psyche even more because it generates guilt. Instead of giving comfort, it creates more discomfort.

Every philosophy of life has some explanation for the bad shit that randomly happens to people. Christianity, for instance, gives a lot of attention to helping people deal with random bad shit without feeling guilty for it. I’d say it’s one of the most seductive aspects of Christianity. Many people come to faith during terrible times because that’s where they find comforting answers.

Neoliberalism, on the other hand, burdens people with guilt and loneliness. It’s always your fault. Everything is always your fault. You are always ashamed of not being perfect, always guilty, always responsible. There’s no forgiveness of sins because there’s nothing outside of the self. There’s nobody and nothing looking out for you, and that’s terrifying.

The other side of the neoliberal coin is smugness. If everything bad is deserved, then so is everything good. Everything that works is proof of the self’s amazingness. People spend their lives oscillating between smug judgmentalism and guilty terror.

4 thoughts on “The Omnipotent Self

  1. Re neoliberalism, I’ve read an extremely intriguing review of a 2018 science fiction film “Aniara.” I know it’s not your genre of choice (and neither is mine), yet this movie seems a breath of fresh air regarding treatment of the new age in European art. I thought it was English or (at last!) Americans turning to those subjects, yet the film maker is Swedish.

    Two reviews are here:

    «Аниара», «Матрица» и другие
    По наводке Синей Вороны посмотрел «Аниару».

    Кинофильм «Аниара» повествует про людей спасающихся от гибнущей Земли на космическом корабле. Я бы не назвал этот жанр фантастикой, фантастический антураж здесь вторичен. Это скорее гиперреализм, то есть показаны существующие тенденции доведенные до логического конца.


    Чем лечить душу

    В прошлом посте мне посоветовали посмотреть фильм “Аниара”, и я его-таки посмотрела, тем более, что Амазон давно предлагает. А фильм оказался хороший, но очень, очень депрессивный.

    Хорош тем, что все-таки это киноискусство – в отличие от большинства современных поделок.
    Депрессивный потому, что это притча о бессмысленности бытия.

    Конечно, о бессмысленности бытия в современном индивидуалистическом обществе, в нашу эру Разобщенного Мира.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been wondering what the authors of mass market fiction were going to do about COVID. How will they integrate it into books that take place right now? Turns out they are avoiding it. Novels are set either in 2019 or 2025, when COVID is a distant, unimportant memory. Very interesting.


      1. “How will they integrate it into books that take place right now? Turns out they are avoiding it.”

        Well, NOBODY knows how all this COVID drama is going to finally play out, so if an author writes a “”contemporary” story taking place in the here-and-now present, anything they say about the pandemic may turn out to be science-fiction or so unrealistic that it hurts the story’s credibility.

        Some examples of this are WWII movies (“Guadalcanal Diary”) that were filmed when certain major battles were going on, and by the time those movies finally reached theaters, the battles had ended in ways totally misrepresented in the plot.


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