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There’s always something to howl about

The sad story of how my wife, my family and my own life were devastated by the the unhappy effects of… sad stories…

At a certain age, you come to feel you’ve got a pretty tight bead on things. Wife, home, kids, job — everything just seems to come together. But then you find out that you’ve built your life on solid quicksand.

I’ll tell you my story. I don’t expect you to believe it, but it’s as true as last night’s TV news. You see, my whole world came crashing down around my ears because of a peril I had never thought to fear — until it was too late.

That peril? Anecdote addiction.

There I was, Joe Normal, watching re-runs and waiting for the game to come on, when my wife would relate some juicy bit of gossip she’d heard at the beauty parlor. Only to her it was more than that. Not just a story — a symptom, a syndrome.

First it was just an anecdote now and then. Always blown way out of proportion, but, hey, it’s just small-talk, right?

But then the stories started coming thick and fast. And they always seemed to be connected, somehow, in my loving wife’s fertile mind. And before you knew it, she started coming up with solutions, prescriptions, Rube Goldberg contraptions that, she thought, would ameliorate these imaginary syndromes.

Well, kitchen-table schemes are one thing, but, before long, she had graduated to movements, slogans, web sites, bogus academic studies buttressed by bogus academic conferences — the works.

And through all this turmoil, our mariage was going straight down the tubes. We went from home-cooked meals to frozen food, thus to leave her time for picketing and activism. The children learned to dress themselves from the dirty clothes hamper, their mother was so distracted. And as for our sex life — well, you do the math.

And yet through all this, I was in denial. “Where’s the harm?” I would ask myself. After all, the entire country is addicted to anecdotes. We’ll stare cold, hard facts right in the face, denying them utterly in preference to a carefully-crafted sob-story. If it weren’t for treacly anecdotes, there would be no news business, no entertainment industry, no politics in America.

And, of course, it was in the seamy world of politics that my wife — my beautiful high-school sweetheart, the only woman I’ve ever loved — finally hit rock-bottom. The only conceivable remedy for a ludicrous anecdote is legislation, it turns out, and the more unbelievable the anecdote, the more draconian the legislation. In a short span of months, my wife had gone from an ordinary middle-American housewife to an angry harridan, ferociously forcing her bizarre policy prescriptions down the throats of innocent people everywhere.

Anecdote addiction is the unheralded killer of American civilization. Once we took pride in minding our own business. Now we not only bare our breasts unbidden, but vast hordes of idle voyeurs — anecdote addicts all — hang upon our every word.

But don’t go looking for anecdote addiction in the forthcoming DSM-V, the diagnostic manual of psychology. The so-called “helping” professions couldn’t exist without the elaborate pretense that an accumulation of dubious shaggy-dog stories somehow constitutes evidence.

And we have so successfully destroyed education in America that no one, it seems, is capable of standing up and declaiming the obvious: “Your self-diagnosis of your unhappy life is shamelessly self-serving and is very probably entirely in error.”

Why am I telling you all this? Just to get it off my chest, I guess. It’s funny, really. Americans are finally waking up to the fact that the greatest threat to their health, wealth and happiness is government. And yet anecdote addicts are all but certain to destroy this golden moment, convincing the gullible that their only possible hope for safety from the awful perils of freedom and self-reliance is more and more legislation.

It’s sad but true: Right now, the only thing that can make the conservatives look even more abusively intrusive than the liberals is anecdote addiction. We have a chance to be free, but we’ll fritter it away on a sob-story. And doesn’t that make for a tragic anecdote?

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  • 9 comments

    9 Comments so far

    1. Chris Johnson April 1st, 2010 10:26 am

      Greg,

      Thanks for putting a fine point on what’s real.

      I’m in your debt for adding to my vocabulary. Again.

    2. don sheridan April 1st, 2010 10:37 am

      Our whole way of life is being threatened by intrusive government in our lives. Who cares about government supported health care when the country is broke. How long do you think the lines will be when you really need help. We need to return to good old fashioned Reagan conservatism which put the individual in charge of his life, responsible for act and action. The current administration is killing the dream.

    3. Greg Swann April 1st, 2010 12:05 pm

      > Thanks for putting a fine point on what’s real.

      It’s not obvious from my text, but I was making fun of the National Review’s desperate attempt to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by campaigning-by-anecdote for a Federal Porn Czar. “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to my right…”

    4. Robert Worthington April 1st, 2010 2:48 pm

      Gregg, if I had your vocabulary I’d feel genius. (wink) It’s to the point now where our legislation is compiling ten fold. How can conservatives get the real America back?

    5. Chris Johnson April 1st, 2010 3:05 pm

      Robert- it starts with realizing that conservatism isn’t a creed it isn’t meaningful and it doesn’t help anyone.

    6. Louis Cammarosano April 1st, 2010 6:23 pm

      Connecticut Senate candidate Peter Schiff responding to criticism that he lacked experience in writing legistlation thus potentially disqualifying him for office:

      “That’s ok, I don’t intend to write ANY legislation as Senator, I view my job to repeal legislation”

    7. Jim Klein April 1st, 2010 7:37 pm

      “How can conservatives get the real America back?”

      Robert, I think the key is understanding that values adhere exclusively to individuals. If conservatives wish to be free to instantiate their values, then others must be free to instantiate theirs. Rationality will always win, if allowed to be, but allowing it to be means allowing the irrational to be, as well. It can be a tough pill to swallow sometimes, because who wants crazy crackheads next door? OTOH, how long will they be around?

      What price happiness? Unfortunately, the price of allowing others their misery.

    8. Scott April 2nd, 2010 2:05 pm

      Ok, no one likes the government involvement but private industry is not stepping up to the plate either. Every year there are cutbacks, policy changes, deductible raises, premium increases all at a rate much higher than the rate of inflation. So what are the average people supposed to do? The divide between the haves and have nots is getting wider, the middle class is getting stretched thinner as we devolve closer to 2 class system.

      What are the alternatives? Insurance companies, employers have had 20 years to address these issues but all they’ve been chasing is growth, mergers, executive bonuses & buyouts and the inevitable buyouts & bailouts. They’re so mindful of the quarterly reporting they’re failing in the year over year, let alone the decade over decade. Why are there “Cadillac” plans that aren’t available to all? Right we have to reward hard work, not risk taking though. If you truly want to reward risk taking then having no fear that a minimum coverage for healthcare would encourage risk taking and innovation by that rationale.

      There is no 100% perfect plan out there, it’s always going to be a compromise. Perhaps its the cost of living in a great society but whatever it is it needs to be universally applied to ALL, no opt outs, no backroom deals and NO PARTY POLITICS, instead of the legislature voting why not put it to a NATIONAL vote? No electoral college, no lobbyists, no special interests, a true vote of the american conscious BY the american conscious. Then you’ll see a true reflection of our value systems without the political parties et al. being able to influence. We as americans as a whole are too big of a group to lobby. Simple Yes/No vote & record who voted, not how and if you didn’t vote then you don’t have any right to complain.

    9. Jim Klein April 3rd, 2010 6:03 pm

      Hey, Scott…did you even read Greg’s essay? Did you catch this:

      “And yet anecdote addicts are all but certain to destroy this golden moment, convincing the gullible that their only possible hope for safety from the awful perils of freedom and self-reliance is more and more legislation.”

      Now read your comment. Greg painted a picture, but you’re living it!

      “Perhaps its the cost of living in a great society but whatever it is it needs to be universally applied to ALL…”

      Interesting theory…let no man be free, as the cost of a great society. Is that your own or did you pick it up somewhere?