Jennifer Senior: I Reject the Tyranny of Positivity
In Conversation with Andrew Keen on the Keen On
The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically disrupting not only our daily lives but society itself. This show features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the deeper economic, political, and technological consequences of the pandemic. It’s our new daily podcast trying to make longterm sense out of the chaos of today’s global crisis.
On today’s episode, Jennifer Senior, New York Times columnist and author of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, discusses how to make lemons out of lemonade.
From the episode:
Jennifer Senior: I can give many reasons why I think pessimism is adaptive in moments like this. I think it’s highly adaptive. I think that optimism is right for certain circumstances, but I think if you ignore too many blinking red warning lights on your dashboard, you’re not doing yourself or the people you’re connected to any favors.
I also just reject the tyranny of positivity that is sometimes all around us. Even under the best of circumstances, it feels like a very imposing claim on people. I think about this as a parent. It’s a very unfair thing to ask your child to be happy and optimistic. I don’t know why we ask anyone to be happy. It’s great as a byproduct of things that we pursue, but I do not know why we try and make it an objective in and of itself or why we make optimism an objective. I think that should be the outgrowth of something, if we have reasons to, but it’s not where my starting position would be in a pandemic.
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Jennifer Senior has been an Op-Ed columnist since September 2018. She had been a daily book critic for The Times; before that, she spent many years as a staff writer for New York magazine, doing profiles and cover stories about politics, social science and mental health. Her best-selling book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, has been translated into 12 languages, and her work has been anthologized in many essay collections, including four volumes of The Best American Political Writing. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband and son.
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