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Why We Privilege Pleasure—It’s the Snooki in Me

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I know I’m Alive On Black Friday

It used to be that our privileged position was Descartes’ cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am. We think and so we know exist (even if we don’t feel fully alive from day to day). Emmanuel Levinas turned that notion to say that even before we know anything, we have a responsibility to the other around us. He wrote that ethics goes before being. The size and shape of our responsibility to others/the Other will vary by personality, culture and society (my words, not his). But as a basic starting point, responsibility takes precedence over being.

This is a tall order, of course. Especially given the example of the Christ guy, which I’ve been rereading here by that inveterate letter writer. And “example” is the right and wrong word: right in that we can try to be like He did. Wrong in that there is a partaking that goes beyond trying.

But today we’ve upped the ante: I know I exist not because I think, nor because of my responsibility to others. I know I exist because I’m drinking something intoxicating. Or eating something tasty. Or my mind is numb with television shows or the stupefying Fox News.

Or I know I’m alive because I’m buying stuff.

As we approach these two oddly juxtaposed holidays—giving thanks followed by our American orgy of frenzied purchasing—our media will move us quickly from one to the other. Clearly the important thing for us is to land squarely on Friday.

Whatever the source, it is my right as an American to pleasure my brain and taste buds. Life owes me pleasure and I’ll rise early Friday and buy some of that. Because buying creates a set of happy thoughts.

At least until the MasterCard bill arrives.


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Written by kirkistan

November 21, 2012 at 11:09 am

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