Dear Reason

This Liberal Magazine Gives Terrible Advice. Reason Offers a Second Opinion.

Reason corrects The Nation's bad advice on depression and the gig economy.

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Longtime lefty mag stalwart, The Nation, debuted an advice column today. It's a weirdly delightful read; the tone is breezy to the point of wacky and the knee-jerk politicization of the questions is so blatant that it has to be a conscious choice.

The actual advice, however, is pretty terrible. So how about a second opinion?

Is my depression individual or political?
—Depressed or Oppressed 

Nation columnist Liza Featherstone dives right in, declaring: 

Let's not draw too sharp a distinction. Life under capitalism can be a profound bummer!

She goes on to cite "one of the few Marxist psychoanalysts (!) currently in clinical practice" whose name is Dr. Fraad (!!).

[Fraad says] "depression is anger unexpressed." Following the news makes you mad. That is good; you are not a selfish asshole. But instead of turning that anger inward on yourself, Dr. Fraad urges you to turn it outward, toward the bad guys, through political engagement.

Then Featherstone literally advises this depressed person to go hang off a bridge: 

You probably can't fix serious clinical depression simply by joining the Portland bridge hangers—­please do also try whatever combination of talk therapy, drugs, and exercise is right for you—but the research does suggest that political participation boosts well-being, especially for women inclined to psychic distress. 

Here's my second opinion:

If following the news makes you mad/depressed, try taking a break from the news.

It's entirely possible that some depression, perhaps even the depression of this incredibly succinct letter writer, is indeed anger turned inward. But for many, many other people, politics (or sex or parents or illness) is merely the most obvious component of a complex interaction of many factors, including brain chemistry and learned behaviors. 

And—here is the most important bit—politics, whatever your understanding of it, is almost completely unfixable. "Engagement" of the kind urged by The Nation, is wildly unlikely to end capitalism or stop oil spills. There's very little upside to seeing your depression as primarily political. Depression that feels political is just as likely—perhaps even more likely—to be cured by taking up biking or visiting a therapist or consuming selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors on a regular basis.

So feel free to try the bridge thing, I guess. (Though again, bridges and serious depression do not strike me as a winning combination.) But I urge you to seriously entertain the possibilty—as Featherstone does not seem to—that politics is simply what your brain had available when it was looking for something to feel bad about. If you are deeply depressed by the Donald Trump candidacy or a zoning fight, it's likely that those things are not the actual cause of your sadness or unease.

Conversely, seriously depressed people fixated on an election rarely wake up cured on November 5, even if their guy wins. 

Here's the part of Featherstone's advice to salvage: "please do also try whatever combination of talk therapy, drugs, and exercise is right for you."

But—and this is and will be my advice about everything in the end—as long as you aren't using force or fraud against anyone else, do whatever the hell you want.

Next! 

My roommate is a slob, and I don't like cleaning up after him. The problem is, neither does he. When I suggested splitting a cleaning service, he told me the ones I researched—worker cooperatives with good labor practices—were too expensive. Then, without asking me, he used Handy.com, a cheap start-up, before I could ask him to cancel. How should I handle this situation?

—Resident, Pigpen or Sweatshop 

Featherstone's answer includes extensive musing about the depredations of the gig economy, but here's the kernel of her advice: 

If you're the one on the lease, try once more to explain what you need: He must clean, or allow someone else to be fairly compensated for doing so. If he won't do that, kick him to the curb. 

Here's my second opinion:

This problem has a market solution. (I know, I know. I'm fighting ideological cliche with ideological cliche. But hear me out! My advice is very practical.) The writer and her roommate both (presumably) value a clean apartment and a peaceful domestic sphere, though perhaps to different degrees. When approached with a complaint, the roommate found a way to solve the problem at price he felt was fair. If the writer places a higher value on certain labor practices than her roommate does, she should pay the difference and hire cleaners that meet her approval. Heck, she's already done the research!

Roommates and married economist couples do this all the time when divvying up responsibility. Cable bills (you watch TV and I don't, so you pay it), for example, or rooms with different qualities (you want an en suite bath, you pay more rent). My husband and I occasionally conduct mini-auctions to determine who wants to do a chore less, though rock-paper-scissors works well when the transaction costs of setting up an auction are too high. There's no reason this solution can't be applied here. Yes, this is about ethical principles and not amenities, but I bet the writer already pays more for cage-free eggs and organic apples even as her roommate keeps his generic supermarket brand eggs and conventional apples in the fridge right next to hers. This is no different.

When two people in a voluntary relationship have different underlying values and desires, exit is always an option. But unlike Featherstone, I wouldn't kick this baby and his bathwater to the curb just yet. Assuming the writer would otherwise like to keep her roommate around, a small informal auction solves this problem neatly and efficiently.

But (all together now!) as long as you aren't using force or fraud against anyone else, do whatever the hell you want.

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  1. Longtime lefty mag stalwart, The Nation

    …aaaaaaaaand stopped right there. Glanced down.

    That’s WAY too many words to say, “Don’t bother reading this derp”, KMW.

    Shorter me: tl; dr

    kthxbai

    1. You miss out an a pretty good article, actually. KMW doesn’t just say “The Nation is wrong! Woot!” You wouldn’t be harmed by reading it.

  2. She goes on to cite “one of the few Marxist psychoanalysts (!) currently in clinical practice” whose name is Dr. Fraad (!!).

    Have we at last reached peak self-parody?

    1. I’m still convinced somebody misspelled Dr. Fraud.

      Dr. Shady M. Fraud, PhD, The Rapist

      1. I’ll take the Penis Mightier for $200

        1. No offense to “Sean Connery”, but I prefer the Squidbillies version of the reference.

          1. Suck it Trebek!

  3. “one of the few Marxist psychoanalysts (!) currently in clinical practice”

    And how much does he charge for his services?

    1. “No! Money down!”

    2. It works like this.

      The psychoanalyst records your session and then plays it back for his soviet. The committee then decides what is the correct answer to “How do you feel?” and issues a 5 year plan for you to follow.

      Most of the plans involve tractors.

      1. “Most of the plans involve tractors.”
        And ugly shoes that don’t fit.

      2. I larfed.

      3. I literally just finished reading the Gulag Archipelago on my lunch break today, so I feel qualified to tell you how would actually go down:

        “You’re depressed? No, you’re just a wrecker and a kulak! How could you be depressed in our glorious worker’s paradise? 10 years in the camps for you, you saboteur!”

    3. According to his needs.

    4. Each according to their means?

  4. Dear Reason:

    I don’t know the difference between the free market and crony capitalism. What’s the best way for me to not recognize that a smaller and less powerful state would not be as enticing to lobby for special favors?

    Signed,
    Will Work for Free

    1. What’s the best way for me to not recognize that a smaller and less powerful state would not be as enticing to lobby for special favors?

      The smaller and less powerful state is right-wing.

      1. +1 Paul Ryan pushing grandma in her wheelchair off a cliff.

  5. [Clickbait headline elided for sanity]

    Et tu, KMW? Et tu?

    1. This commenter refused to accept the new journalism. You won’t believe what happened next.

      1. 16 Ways You’ll Go Insane Trying to Fathom the Progressive Mentality

      2. Try this one, weird trick to avoid the massive derp in the world today!

        1. It’s the button with the x at the top right of the window, isn’t it?

          1. Publishers of Derp hate this one weird X click!

  6. You probably can’t fix serious clinical depression simply by joining the Portland bridge hangers??please do also try whatever combination of talk therapy, drugs, and exercise is right for you?but the research does suggest that political participation boosts well-being, especially for women inclined to psychic distress.

    I want to say that this qualifies as criminal negligence.

    Then, without asking me, he used Handy.com, a cheap start-up, before I could ask him to cancel. How should I handle this situation?

    The only appropriate response to this question is with another question: Are you a fucking baby? You can’t “handle this” on your own?

    1. I almost agree with that first part. It is incredibly terrible advice. Politics is all about motivating people through convincing them either the world is terrible or the other people trying to win the election are terrible. It’s in the same vein as saying depressed people should join a cult to give themselves purpose in life.

      1. It’s in the same vein as saying depressed people should join a cult to give themselves purpose in life.

        Pretty sure that’s the standard advice.

        1. I thought it was “Here, take these drugs. If you don’t kill yourself, I’ll judge it a success”.

          1. The only difference between a cult and drugs is drugs don’t make you listen to a bunch of bullshit.

            1. I listen to my iPod all day to keep the voices out.

              Seriously, other people can be so dumb.

            2. Cults don’t make you play air guitar.

              1. you belong to the wrong cults, man.

          2. Hey now, those drugs are life savers (not literally….well for some people literally). If you have fucked up hormones they can make massive differences in your quality of life. Sure you could manage the mood swings and hopelessness through will power, but by the same token you could hunt and grow all your own food as well. There is no reason not to take advantage of the conveniences of living in the modern age.

            1. I’m not rejecting the use of drugs in psychiatry. If it works, great. People should absolutely take advantage.

              But for a lot of people with more serious depression or similar problems, the drugs often don’t do a lot more than stabilize. And in my experience, a lot of psychiatrists consider that good enough.

          3. They want you to join the killing-yourself-is-bad cult, don’t they?

      2. ” It’s in the same vein as saying depressed people should join a cult to give themselves purpose in life.”

        So veganism or crossfit?

    2. Yes. Their target audience is emotional fucking babies.

      The reaction to Handy.com is the exact same one as my 14 month old when I put green vegetables on his high chair tray.

      1. And how do you hate a company that is bold enough to call itself Handy? These people are just proving how humorless they are.

    3. You can’t “handle this” on your own?

      When every single decision in life is political, it gets overwhelming.

      Either that or this is another case of “shit that never happened”.

    4. Liza Featherstone views the mailer as another egg in her grand omelette vision.

  7. ? Partly because so much household labor used to be performed by slaves, domestic workers?nannies, housecleaners, and home healthcare aides?have been deprived of even the minimal labor protections accorded to most other workers under the law.

    So much retardation pulled directly out of her ass.

    1. Sure, labor protections generally weren’t created until after slavery was abolished, but it’s still “partly” to blame. A very, very small, almost insignificant part is still a part.

  8. I’m just gonna say this once, until I say it again sometime in the near future, but by even engaging this stuff, you lose.

    1. I don’t know. This is a pretty winning comment thread.

  9. Dear The Nation,

    My wife started blowing me before I could give enthusiastic consent. Which law enforcement agency should I report this to?

    Signed:
    Woman Abuser or Blue Balls

    1. Dear The Nation,

      My parents run a small business. I overhear them talking about needing to be “creative” with their taxes. I also discovered recently that they contributed to the Romney 2012 campaign. Do I try talking to them, or should I go straight to the police?

      – Concerned 14 Year-Old

    2. Dear The Nation,

      I continue having to provide for my needs despite my aversion to obligations or responsibility. How can I live a life in complete dependence on the total state?

      Signed,

      Pajama Boy

      1. Signed,

        Pajama Boy

        (p.s. how do I get my mom to quit bitching at me about my messy room whenever I ask for more money)

        1. substituting “messy room” with “ejaculate encrusted adult pajamas” would’ve earned you another 5pts.

    3. You should totally send that one in.

      1. Reason commenters should definitely send in their ideas!

        1. Surely a few of the more subtle ones would slip through.

          We should make it a contest. Anyone who gets one published wins 1 million bonus points.

          1. you think only the subtle ones would make it? I’d bet the blatant ones would be taken even more seriously.

    4. All hetero sex is rape, so she should report you

    5. Shorter version: Dear Nation, what is the correct liberal social signaling for this situation?

    6. Dear The Nation,

      Last night, to cure myself of my evil Hertosexuality, I watched “How to Lose a Guy with 10 Gays” repeatedly over the last few weeks. (It has worked! Now, I love dick! Hooray for dick!!) However, since this time I have had multiple “wet dreams” in which I did not provide positive consent. To whom should I attack on twitter? The producers of the movie, the actors, or myself?

      Thanks.
      – Hard for Hardy

  10. ? A longtime journalist and columnist?not to mention a mother, Facebook addict, and Family Dollar shopper?I too grapple with the day-to-day struggles of living ethically under capitalism.

    Obviously not struggling that hard with it. Family Dollar? Isn’t that stocked lots of Chinese crap made by slave labor and retailed by minimum wage employees working part-time?

    1. Also, the stuff is pretty shitty quality that breaks after about 1.5 uses. /Bitter experience with ex who loved the place.

      1. You bought your wife at Family Dollar? Ah, that explains it.

  11. Dear Reason:

    You know who else handed out “advice” to people with disastrous results?

    Signed,
    Bunkered in Berlin

    1. I’m expecting big things from the commentariat on this article. BIG THINGS. Get on it, guys.

      1. And a new HyR meme is born.

    2. Marshall Applewhite?

      1. We have a winner people.

    3. The rabbi/priest in every religious joke ever?

    4. Karl Rove?

      1. Didn’t Karl Rove win everything he touched?

    5. Dr. Ruth Westheimer?

  12. Dear the Nation:

    I know it is considered terribly impolite to make fun of the mentally retarded – er handicapped but every time I hear of anything written by any of your columnists I feel the urge to do exactly that.

    Should I resist this temptation and is so why?

  13. This advice column won’t last long without a comments section. People don’t like reading random advice without being able to put their own two cents in.

    1. If they add a comments section, I might have to chime in with Tundra’s advice below.

  14. Speaking of politicizing everything:

    Mayor of Seattle claims he can “do anythings” in a state of emergency, including imposing curfews, closing businesses. But he promises he won’t do those things in this state of emergency.

    I’m so glad we have the right people in charge.

    http://kuow.org/post/seattle-d…..melessness

    Unfortunately, you’ll have to actually listen to the audio to get that quote, as they glossed it on the transcript.

    1. Cities to federal government

      “I learned it from you!”

    2. My local cable news had a blurb this morning about the horrendous conditions found at every publicly-funded shelter. No mention of the billions of dollars we spend on this stuff every year.

      1. It wasn’t billions of dollars enough.

      2. Mayor Murray, with absolutely no sense of irony whatsoever said, and I quote. “des…”

        Aww, fuck it, I’ll paste it:

        “Despite our generosity, the magnitude of the problem is growing worse,” he said during the news conference. “All of us are struggling to understand, despite our efforts, why this crisis continues to grow.”

        Mayor Murray could use a libertarian moment about right the fuck now.

        http://www.seattlepi.com/local…..605652.php

    3. The state of emergency lets the mayor contract for services quickly, without going through a lengthy public process. Lately, that process has complicated the city’s efforts to open homeless encampments in places like Ballard.

      I’m assuming this awful unnecessary “process” which the mayor is heroically sidestepping involves the consent of people who actually live and pay taxes in the area, huh?

      1. I’m assuming this awful unnecessary “process” which the mayor is heroically sidestepping involves the consent of people who actually live and pay taxes in the area, huh?

        Yep. As I understand it, Murray is actually popular, unlike the last 18 mayors who got kicked out after one term, yet he’s remarkably like all the previous mayors.

        However, Murray is one of the most thin-skinned mayors you’ll ever run into.

        He’s butthurt because he hasn’t been thanked or asked for his endorsement of Hillary Clinton while 135 mayors are crawling over themselves like that scene in World War Z to throw her their support. I guess he wants to pile on but he’s miffed that she’s ignoring him.

        Murray is living proof of an intravenous truth in American politics: You can run your opponents out of town (there aren’t many [any] conservatives left in Seattle), and you can give your voters what they want, but in the end, divisiveness will reign supreme. And so Mayor Murray tells me what’s keeping him up at night, pacing his bedroom in thin socks: “After everything I’ve accomplished for this city,” he says angrily, a reddish color flooding up his milky cheeks, “I’m still ‘the man.'”

        this dude’s a total hoot.

        http://www.ozy.com/rising-star…..ayor/61187

        1. You idiots were always “the man,” you silly bints. You’ve always been winches in the grand political machines you helped build. And you’ve always been in bed with bankers, with Wall Street, with the corporate behemoths you claim to despise. You don’t really get it, do you? Financing a few bike paths for your crony infrastructure unions to pave doesn’t make you an outsider. Championing transgender bathrooms doesn’t make you an outsider. And endorsing one of the wealthiest, most politically connected and ethically challenged women for president certainly does not make you an outsider.

          1. At least he didn’t say something truly creepy like DeBlasio did.

            “She’s very cold-eyed, and that’s what you want in a president,” he added. He said he will “absolutely” campaign for her.

          2. Unfortunately, and this is a pretty clear indicator of how warped politics are here, Murray is the sane, moderate alternative to the rising tide of Sawantism.

            1. I used to say that about Bloomberg but then we got Deblasio.

        2. “I’m still ‘the man.'”

          Cisheteronormpatriarotherersexist Shitlord is more like it, ammirite?

      2. Geez, who doesn’t want to live next door to a homeless camp?

  15. Let’s not draw too sharp a distinction. Life under capitalism can be a profound bummer!

    “They expect results!”

    Yeah, bummer.

  16. Dear Reason:

    I made bad choices and now the people who are to bail me out are giving me attitude. What’s the better way to signal to them what’s expected of them from my generation? Throwing a public temper tantrum or simply pitching a public fit?

    Signed,
    From Each According to His Accountability

    1. Dear From Each…:

      Please respond to the enclosed survey regarding Millennial opinions.

      Thanks
      Reason

  17. Dear The Nation:

    I have won the victory over myself. I love Big Brother.

    Now what?

    Signed,
    Fixed

  18. Semantics, I know, but it’s inaccurate to refer to the Nation as a “liberal” magazine. Once upon a time, sure, but it’s a full-blown commie rag now.

    1. Rag is giving it too much credit. I wouldn’t want a bum touching my windshield with a wadded up copy of the Nation. It’s suitable as fishwrapper for yesterday’s catch.

  19. (Though again, bridges and serious depression do not strike me as a winning combination.)

    I guess that depends on how serious you are about solving the problem.

  20. It’s been awhile since I’ve read The Nation. .. does it still have photos of naked women in it?

  21. Dear the Nation,

    I recently compromised national security while I was trying to skirt FOIA laws. I thought I would get away with it, but I didn’t, and I’ve been stonewalling and lying about it for months. How do I get everyone to shut the fuck up and stop talking about it?

    Signed,
    Prisoner or President.

    1. *flips through notes looking for a suitable Vince Foster joke*

  22. I live in a town with a small, private, liberal-arts college. I’ve read the Forum before, but never believed the stories.

    Till I met a girl. I’ll call her “Katherine”…..

    OH! Wait! Sorry, wrong blog……

    1. …and as I left, she said, “now, be sure to vote for me in November 2016, and maybe we can do it in the Lincoln bedroom!”

      1. There I go again, politicizing everything.

        1. GET BACK OVER TO REASON WHERE YOU BELONG!

    2. Just get to the part with the pillow fight and the breast inspections.

    3. …she was just a small town girl…

  23. Wait a minute, I seem to recall progressives attributing this sort of attitude to their political opponents.

    Remember how right-wing manipulators reach out to citizens suffering from “psychic distress” and persuade them that they can deal with their problems by fighting the “bad guys” who are ruining the country – and the world?

    Now it seems that was all projection.

    “the research does suggest that political participation boosts well-being, especially for women inclined to psychic distress.”

    Whose well-being? Maybe the well-being of the activist, in the sense that anything that interacting with others and serving something larger than oneself can be healthier than sitting at home being miserable.

    But what of the public’s well-being, as troubled people are encouraged to channel their feelings into political attacks on “bad guys?”

    Political movements like this tend to take a bad turn.

    See Eric Hoffer’s *The True Believer.*

    1. “Depressed or Oppressed” (derp) would be better off selling knives for CutCo and annoying friends and family that way than enlisting in the ranks of useful idiots.

  24. “Just because I didn’t read it doesn’t mean I don’t have all kinds of relevant comments” – me

  25. That picture of her is one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. I can’t decide what I hate more, her hideously smug expression or the style of illustration. http://www.thenation.com/wp-co…..ot_img.jpg

    1. it’s a man, baby!

    2. Dude. Trigger Warning.

    3. both deserve scorn but christ that illustration is scary.

      normally when you convert your photo to comic, it comes out cute and cheeky. what they did to her is less cartoonize and more John Wayne Gacyize.

      1. Looking at the illustrator’s other works, she seems to be going for Terry Gilliam-style collages done by a toddler

        http://mfaillustration.sva.edu…..borsky.jpg

        It’s supposed to be witty or something, but I don’t see wit…just crap, and I’m generally open-minded about art

    4. She’s been Wes Anderson’d

    5. Huh, I didn’t know they hired Fred Armisen.

  26. Dear Mr. Jesus, I don’t understand…

    Wait, this isn’t bad 80s music.

    Dear The Nation:

    I was listening at the door when my father made statements, in his sleep, indicating that he might be a thought criminal. Should I report him to the patrols, or kill him myself before this gets any worse?

  27. The Onion has presciently already parodied this:
    http://www.theonion.com/video/…..ture-51658

  28. “Let’s not draw too sharp a distinction. Life under capitalism can be a profound bummer!”

    I seem to recall Khrushchev complaining that he lead a nation of drunks. It never occurred to him that the Ruskies stayed drunk all the time because things are so hopeless under communism. He blamed them for not being good enough for communism.

    I really do wonder how many commies believe the shit they spout and how many are just plain lying.

    Hey Featherstone, hop your ass on a plane and jet down to Caracas. Don’t come back.

    1. The pervasiveness of meth in North Korea just goes to show the party atmosphere that prevails under totalitarian communism.

      1. I hadn’t thought of it like that. Party all the time.

        Hmm. OK, I change my mind then.

        1. SUNNY ALL THE TIME GOOD TIME BEACH PARTY!

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhohteHuyPM

    2. I really do wonder how many commies believe the shit they spout and how many are just plain lying.

      I would have to think very few of them – and probably none at the top. Orwell knew this.

  29. Also, serious question, didn’t The Nation used to be a serious mag? The shit I see there now isnt fit for some looney to pass out on handbills on the street.

  30. This is brilliant. Please make this a regular feature, so long as The Nation keeps this advice column going.

    1. I vote yes on this.

  31. Dear The Nation,
    I am the leader of a moderately-size South American country. We recently abolished capitalism and establish a fair socialist state. Since implementing our socialist utopia, grocery store shelves are empty and people only make enough money to eat once or twice a week. However, under the previous fasco-capitalism regime, grocery store shelves were full and most people were able to make enough money to eat three times a day, seven days a week. How can I feed my people under a socialist system or should I give up and allow the proletariat-exploiting capitalist class to feed the nation?
    ? Confused in Caracas

    1. Dear Confused:

      Your problems are clearly the fault of the greedy capitalist societies punishing you for your utopian treatment of your people. Please continue serving the socialist ideals you have always served. You will be rewarded when we finally crush capitalism in the United States.

      1. needs a splash of Doubling Down.

      2. You will be rewarded when we finally crush capitalism in the United States.

        Needs more “Your reward will be in Heaven.” feeling.

  32. If you’re willing to take advice from a Nation advice column you should jump off a bridge, not hang from it, unless it’s by your neck. Preferably before you reproduce.

  33. If the writer places a higher value on certain labor practices than her roommate does, she should pay the difference and hire cleaners that meet her approval.

    In other words, the Coase Theorem in application; bravo.

    Not that I’d expect an advice columnist at The Nation to know who Coase was, of course.

  34. My husband and I occasionally conduct mini-auctions to determine who wants to do a chore less,

    This is both the nerdiest and sexiest thing I’ve read all day.

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