I’m waiting for the page views to drop before writing anything. A few remarks: first, I’m now going to be suffering from elevated expectations whenever I write something here, meaning I’m going to be (subconsciously) trying to come up with another topic that goes viral and brings in gazillions of readers. I like readers! But that makes for bad writing, and I apologize in advance; I’ll try to keep my narcissism under control. Secondly, and relatedly, I’m going to leave myself out of these posts in the future. Too many discussions, both in the comments here and on pages that linked to this blog, centered around me, and what my career or chances were, and a few people even worried about where I live. I started to get drawn in to defending myself, but would that make any difference? I didn’t collect the data. We have this thing called the internet.
Third, I was gratified that the response didn’t degenerate (much) into the sort of blather one sees on reddit, where any time something bad happens to a poor person, there are immediately chains of trolls explaining how that person made bad decisions and everything is their fault. I don’t claim this was written about bad things happening to good people who did everything right- on the contrary, it was written about bad things happening to good people who do some things wrong, like everyone else (you never drank a beer before your 21st birthday? I’m exempting Muslims and Mormons from this bit of snark, of course). Or, as I said in a comment, good people who never had a right thing to do. I’m not going to pretend I can sit here on the internet and determine what someone who overdosed should have done, but I’m pretty sure “not heroin” is going to be on the list. And suicide is obviously a choice, albeit one informed by circumstances and, almost always, depression. That doesn’t make any of it- or the statistical prevalence or either form of death- less of a tragedy.
Another observation: the Unnecessariat post was as popular on the right as on the left. Initially that surprised me, since like everyone else I’m accustomed to the internet being my private bubble, but honestly it makes sense. Rural America is overwhelmingly conservative, so these are the people the right should pay attention to, and more than that, this is something the right is good at talking about. When people have lost their sense of participation in or meaning relative to anything larger than the day-to-day, I have no problem calling that a spiritual crisis, even if the roots can be found in hard economic and political realities. The right, unlike the left, can talk about spiritual crises. When the left tries, it quickly runs out of language and gets tangled up, swerving widely between churches, participatory social capital, metaphysics, and shopworn self-help promo blather. This is not to say that everybody needs god (which one(s)?) but that there are needs beyond the material, which can’t be forthrightly addressed if one is afraid to dance too close to the axiomatic assumption that secularism is going to win out in the war of ideas.