Saturday, December 31, 2011

Being in the driving seat

"In the middle ages, in England, when you met a very poor person, that person would be described as an unfortunate. Literally someone who has not been blessed by fortune, an unfortunate. Nowadays, particularly in the United States, if you meet someone at the bottom of the society, they may unkindly be described as a loser. There's a real difference between an unfortunate and a loser. That shows 400 years of evolution in society, and I believe, in who's responsible for our lives. It's no longer the gods, it's us. We're in the driving seat.

That's exhilarating if you are doing well, and very crushing if you're not. It leads in the worst cases, in the analysis of socilogists like Emile Durkheim, it leads to increased rates of suicide. There are more suicides in developed individualistic countries than in any other part of the world. And some of the reasons for that is the people take what happens to them extremely personally: they own their success, but they also own their failure.

Alain De Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

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