“How to pacify a generation: tell them to think “happy thoughts” about chronic social issues”

“Telling young people to create “opportunities” out of tragedy and crippling economic deprivation, which is seizing on the logic of disaster capitalism, is like asking someone to make bread out of mud and water then expecting them to have full bellies and be grateful after consuming it.
Every time I have been fired from a low-paid precarious job, many people have told me to see it as an “opportunity” to find something better. But something better has yet to come along. What has resulted when I have suffered yet another job loss in a stagnant and precarious job market, is; I defaulted on my student loans and I have been pushed further into poverty and debt and then I fall deeply into depression which I nearly always try to numb with alcohol and prescription sleeping pills. I am done believing or accepting events which are often out of my control and are economically shattering, are somehow “opportunities” to better my life because they just , aren’t…
[Journalists] often frame this type of rhetoric in positive “self-help” language. But in actuality what they are doing whether intended or not is, pushing dangerous neoliberal thinking which disempowers while claiming or seeming to, empower. It amounts to double speak; this type of thinking encourages us to look inwards for solutions to the chronic issues in our lives. It encourages us to only improve our individual situations and not that of our local and global communities.”

I've been thinking for a while about this weird, insidious thing where people tell individuals to solve giant problems, instead of asking systems to solve them. It’s also this thing in California where individual people are supposed to take shorter showers even though the only way to address the water crisis is to look at the systems of water usage and the big, industrial users and have them make cuts. Individuals acting alone aren’t going to realistically solve the problem — but they will spend so much money and energy on guilt that they won’t have time to push for policy changes.

I see this in mental health, where institutions tell people to “be more resilient” instead of addressing toxic cultures. I see this in politics, where we pretend that the biggest thing that people can do is vote; but if we only act as individuals, we don’t have a hand in what gets on the ballot.