Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"It's the luxury of the well-off to be depressed"

New York Times opinion and food columnist Mark Bittman writes in today's online edition of the paper that he is feeling pessimistic about the state of the world. So he called his friend Charles Kenny, "a Brit who lives in the District of Columbia and has a sharp mind, a quick wit and the fancy title of senior fellow at the Center for Global Development," to get an antidote for his depressed state of mind.

Bittman asked Kenny:

Is it, as I have long suspected, that we (humans) always believe that we (individuals currently alive) are experiencing the worst time ever?

No hesitation: "Yes. Certainly the Romans thought that, and there's a long tradition of pessimism, especially" - and he said this without cruelty - "amongst the writing classes. Nearly all really poor people around the world, those with the right to complain, don't; they say 'yes' when asked if life is going to be better for their kids. It's the luxury of the well-off to be depressed." (Italics are mine)

Charles Kenny wrote the book Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding and How to Improve the World Even More, which I have not read (because I had never actually even heard of Charles Kenny before reading Bittman's column).

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  1. This Kenny may be as bright as alleged but he does not know anything about depression, and I bet he does not know many poor people. Poverty is no insurance against psychological misery, which is as real as the pain from a broken bone.

  2. I do not think that is what he actually meant.

  3. I wonder then what he did mean. There is depression among the poor, but there is little support for them. Often, they just die, either directly or by loss of what they need just to live.