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Ed S

As a published humorist, I agree with your students somewhat: Louis is a comedian, and humor often uses exaggeration for comedic effect. What he 's playing upon is well-known "Liberal Guilt" as many have called it. Taking it to the extreme, unless you are like Mother Theresa and give away nearly everything to the poor, sick and hungry, you are an ungodly or evil person. Which is an absurd exaggeration of course. Don't take everything Louis CK says as an absolute truth: there's a lot of tongue stuck in his cheek.


"Playing upon well-known Liberal Guilt." I think you're on to something, Ed.


Jeff, I admire your honesty in this piece. I believe your thoughts are in the right place.

As a child, my Grandmother took me to thrift stores on occasion. She didn't have to shop there. I don't recall that she actually even bought anything. As I got older I believe I came to understand why she went there. She survived the Depression. Perhaps the thrift store kept her grounded. Habit. Muscle memory.

To this day, I love thrift stores. My mother would never have entered a thrift store, but my Grandmother thought little of it. She had more than enough money, yet had a garage full of fruits and vegetables she had canned. Just in case I suppose.

We've become a decadent society. We've forgotten or perhaps never known what hardships our families have had to endure to be where we are today. I'm convinced that our generation would struggle mightily to overcome the odds they endured.

It's not Liberal Guilt. It's realizing that we've had it pretty easy for most of our lives. Little suffering. Little conflict. I applaud your introspection.



Good words, Glenn. Sometimes we lose sight of hardships when we can gratify our desires with the click of a mouse.


I think it's perfectly fine to spend your money on a luxury car or luxury anything. I think most people who do that also give to charity freely as well. But even if they don't----I don't consider them "evil" for spending their own resources as they see fit. Evil would be taking someone else's resources and wasting them. Oh wait----that happens to me every April 15. And that's my point----it's very hard to be charitable and caring when we witness disgusting waste----money burned up----money that we earned at wage slave jobs and had taken from us----lining the pockets of "green energy start ups" or military industrial complex winners----and everything in between. It robs us of our spirit to help others when we have in some cases---over half of our earnings taken from us (combining state, local and federal taxes as well as sales taxes). And when we hear that the money is being taken for "the greater good" but we see daily----the money being squandered. It makes us callous. At that point, the half we have left----hopefully some of it is socked away for a rainy day and the rest is spent on ourselves. Selfish? Hardly.


I wouldn't call it "evil," which has an absolutist quality and an implied intentionality, but certainly "ignorant" - perhaps willfully so.

Liberal Guilt, yes. But like Glenn said, it is more than that. And I also think that Louis CK is actually in the line of other philosopher-comedians like George Carlin and Woody Allen, which is why I love him: he taps into existential, living truth, and crafts comedy out of that.

I don't have the answer to your dilemma because I experience it myself. I had one of my classes figure out how much money they had spent, or had been spent on them - other than transportation and food - over a five week span, which included the Christmas season. The class of 13 came up with a total of around $40,000. We were all appalled.

F. Oberlander

With respect I think you should elevate this response to main blog level as the issues you raise have been well thought through by some of thevfinest minds in history and deserve contemplation.

Nearly a thousand years ago the Rabbinical genius Maimonides observed, paraphrasing, that those who give to charity are blessed, but those who give carefully and with deliberation are blessed and wise. His point was inter Alia in refutation of the idea that one "must" tithe (fixed percentage of income) regardless of individual feelings and circumstances.

Guilt is a pathology. If you subjectively truly believe in the necessity of providing for your family at a certain level and it is not wildly indefensible then one suggests you leave yourself alone as to give any more would by definition not be charity but would be enslavement to the thoughts of others. Why do you care what anyone else thinks?


This will be the main blog for philosophy issues since Herculodge, the main blog you're probably referring to, is gadgets, radios, watches, etc.


@ Oberlander - "Why do you care what anyone else thinks?" Well that just about sums up the station we're at today. Wow.

As to guilt being a pathology, I know I'm a chronic sufferer of the disease. Hoping I'm never injected with the cure because I'm fairly certain guilt is an emotion unique to our genus. Politicians and serial killers excluded, of course.


Hey Jeff,

Just thought I'd share.



Glenn: Compassion, sympathy, empathy----all good. Guilt can be good if there's truly a reason for it----and if it turns to regret and corrective action, that's even better. But to feel "guilty" constantly over things like "spending too much on a car" is, in my opinion, a low level mental disorder. And I'm not trying to be funny either----as I've probably "been guilty about feeling guilty for no reason." So maybe I'm one afflicted by this. But the truth is that caring too much about what others think is indeed seriously unhealthy. Oh, and as for comedy----Richard Pryor was astounding in his ability to cut through the fog and myriad of shortcomings of the human condition and of society. When he was on, his way of turning things we should be sad about into things we laughed at was incomparable. I thought Eddie Murphy's early-mid 80s material was the funniest humor I ever heard----"Delirious" remains my all time favorite routine in comedy history----but Pryor was far more socially astute.

Ed S.

Greed is the problem today, with the "I got mine, screw you" mentality. And BTW my generation did not have it totally easy: we lived under the constant threat of nuclear annulation, fought and bled and died in the swamps of Vietnam, got our heads beaten in demonstrations, and went through cultural changes that left few untouched and unscathed.


Ed: I agree with some of what you say, RE: '60s generation not having it "easy." But today's teenagers believe it's a catastrophe if the internet is down----or if their I-Phone is malfunctioning. Seriously----compare that with a few generations back, when kids younger than them were needing before school and after school jobs to help the family eat. As for greed----I don't think our society (or any other in history) has ever been "share and share alike, one for all, all for one." And in fact, when that has been tried, it's been a disaster. Do some reading about the Pilgrims' "Community house." It gets ugly when you're asked to go beyond providing for your own family----and are counting on others to do the same for you. I think most Americans today with the means are generous and they do care about people who have less----particularly those who can't make ends meet. I see what goes on in my own church and others I've attended. People give their money, time and resources to try to help those in need and they ask for nothing in return. The richest among us also give tens of thousands of dollars freely to try to help. Things aren't perfect but if greed is the problem today----it's always been a problem, nothing new. By the way, you mentioned Vietnam and demonstrations. A strong case could be made that in many cases, demonstrators were on the right side of history in opposing this war (no, it was not a police action, it was a war). But when the demonstrations devolved to spitting on 22 year olds who were drafted----returning from the war----they lose my support. I'm too young to remember it as it happened but I've done enough reading and talked to enough people older than I am to know that the returning soldiers were treated in a horrible way----and I can't get behind that.

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