At a certain age, you come to feel you’ve got a pretty tight bead on things. Wife, home, kids, job — everything just seems to come together. But then you find out that you’ve built your life on solid quicksand.
I’ll tell you my story. I don’t expect you to believe it, but it’s as true as last night’s TV news. You see, my whole world came crashing down around my ears because of a peril I had never thought to fear — until it was too late.
That peril? Anecdote addiction.
There I was, Joe Normal, watching re-runs and waiting for the game to come on, when my wife would relate some juicy bit of gossip she’d heard at the beauty parlor. Only to her it was more than that. Not just a story — a symptom, a syndrome.
First it was just an anecdote now and then. Always blown way out of proportion, but, hey, it’s just small-talk, right?
But then the stories started coming thick and fast. And they always seemed to be connected, somehow, in my loving wife’s fertile mind. And before you knew it, she started coming up with solutions, prescriptions, Rube Goldberg contraptions that, she thought, would ameliorate these imaginary syndromes.
Well, kitchen-table schemes are one thing, but, before long, she had graduated to movements, slogans, web sites, bogus academic studies buttressed by bogus academic conferences — the works.
And through all this turmoil, our mariage was going straight down the tubes. We went from home-cooked meals to frozen food, thus to leave her time for picketing and activism. The children learned to dress themselves from the dirty clothes hamper, their mother was so distracted. And as for our sex life — well, you do the math.
And yet through all this, I was in denial. “Where’s the harm?” I would ask myself. After all, the entire country is addicted to anecdotes. We’ll stare cold, hard facts right in the face, denying them utterly in preference to a carefully-crafted sob-story. If it weren’t for treacly anecdotes, there would be no news business, no entertainment industry, no politics in America.
And, of course, it was in the seamy world of politics that my wife — my beautiful high-school sweetheart, the only woman I’ve ever loved — finally hit rock-bottom. The only conceivable remedy for a ludicrous anecdote is legislation, it turns out, and the more unbelievable the anecdote, the more draconian the legislation. In a short span of months, my wife had gone from an ordinary middle-American housewife to an angry harridan, ferociously forcing her bizarre policy prescriptions down the throats of innocent people everywhere.
Anecdote addiction is the unheralded killer of American civilization. Once we took pride in minding our own business. Now we not only bare our breasts unbidden, but vast hordes of idle voyeurs — anecdote addicts all — hang upon our every word.
But don’t go looking for anecdote addiction in the forthcoming DSM-V, the diagnostic manual of psychology. The so-called “helping” professions couldn’t exist without the elaborate pretense that an accumulation of dubious shaggy-dog stories somehow constitutes evidence.
And we have so successfully destroyed education in America that no one, it seems, is capable of standing up and declaiming the obvious: “Your self-diagnosis of your unhappy life is shamelessly self-serving and is very probably entirely in error.”
Why am I telling you all this? Just to get it off my chest, I guess. It’s funny, really. Americans are finally waking up to the fact that the greatest threat to their health, wealth and happiness is government. And yet anecdote addicts are all but certain to destroy this golden moment, convincing the gullible that their only possible hope for safety from the awful perils of freedom and self-reliance is more and more legislation.
It’s sad but true: Right now, the only thing that can make the conservatives look even more abusively intrusive than the liberals is anecdote addiction. We have a chance to be free, but we’ll fritter it away on a sob-story. And doesn’t that make for a tragic anecdote?