Every morning I wake up, holding my breath while I turn on my phone to see the latest news. I think to myself, ‘It can’t be worse than yesterday.’ But when the news loads, I think, ‘Ohhhhh, yes, it is worse.’

Thus spake Barbra Streisand, legendary singer, movie star, film maker, media darling, diva, winner of two Academy Awards, two Emmys, a special Tony, eleven Golden Globes, eight Grammys, seller of 145 million records, creator of thirty-seven gold and twenty-one platinum albums, and major Democratic donor, this past March. Babs went on to call Trump “a one-man weapon of mass destruction.”

Ms. Streisand owns at least seven homes. She “has amassed enough art, furniture and decorative arts to fill a New York apartment, a house in Beverly Hills, and a compound of five houses in Malibu.”

The Internet reports that Babs is worth $400M.

Not Bloomberg money or Bezos money, but for all intents and purposes, “infinite money.”

Streisand’s histrionic lament didn’t drop at the beginning of Trump’s term, when many wondered whether the Untethered Orange Id would indeed go non-linear in some nationally destructive way. No, it was uttered a couple months ago, more than three years into his tenure, and before the Coronavirus crisis arose. At the time of her lament, things were not that wildly different than before he took office.

In fact, I’d argue that Streisand’s life hasn’t changed even one iota for the worse due to Trump’s Presidency (and in fact, I bet she’s done just fine, financially. Forbes pegged her net worth at $370M in 2016).

I discussed Streisand’s utterance a couple months ago (again, pre-Corona), when out to dinner with friends. One of my dinner companions posited that the human brain has a space in it allocated for trouble. When real trouble exists, that space is occupied with dealing with it. When things are good, the brain seeks other stuff to fill it with.

This would explain why we have had a plethora of well-to-do, highly educated young people screaming at the sky and suffering existential angst these past few years, why we hear about people declaiming the end of days, why safe spaces and trigger warnings have become a Thing, and why some take offense at the trivial, the ridiculous, and the picayune.

And, why some put seemingly extraordinary efforts into finding things to be offended about. George Will coined (to the best of my knowledge) the phrase “synthetic outrage” to describe such folks, and thanks to them, we must all now tread across a cultural appropriation minefield.

Legendary comedian George Carlin released an album called “A Place For My Stuff” back in 1981. In the eponymous bit, he noted:

Everybody’s gotta have a little place for their stuff, that’s all life is about. That’s the meaning of life, trying to find a place to keep your stuff… That’s all your house is, it’s a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff. Sometimes you gotta move, sometimes you gotta move, you gotta get a bigger house. Why? Too much stuff.

So it goes with troubles.

Thing is, unlike stuff, troubles are hard to simply get rid of. Especially when you’ve gone public with them, and the Internet has memorialized them for eternity. Once you’ve committed to a particular fear, a particularly troubling view, or a particular criticism of something that purportedly causes you misgivings, dread, or Babs-ish agony, expunging that trouble becomes its own problem. What if someone calls you out for no longer standing firm on your earnest proclamation? What if you’re called a hypocrite, or a sellout, or any of countless “-ist” names, or, heaven forfend, a TRUMPist!, merely for admitting that prior troubles weren’t all that, after all. Now you’ve got new troubles. You’re ripe for cognitive dissonance, and that’s its own issue.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “First World Problems” before. We love to make fun of Chipotle man for taking the time to make a sign that asks “Why is Guac Extra,” and he deserves it. We mock the Hollywood millionaires who gather at the Oscars and Emmys and scold us while wearing tens of thousands in couture and hundreds of thousands in jewelry, justly so. And we laugh when mega millionaire Barbra Streisand tells us the sky is falling after three years of non-doomsday.

This doesn’t mean that everything is OK and will always be OK. There are real problems out there, both domestically and world-wide, born of many real issues. The peril lies in filling our brain-space with the wrong troubles, with fretting about things that either aren’t a big deal, are not troubles at all, or are actually of benefit (GMOs and DDT come to mind), and crowding out the things that we should be concerned about. We witness this, starkly, even during the “real-trouble” Coronavirus pandemic, an the “real-trouble” unrest in several major cities, with people continuing to sky-scream about the same nonsense they’ve been sky-screaming about for years.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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