George Carlin, in his book Brain Droppings, told us that his motto had come to be: “Fuck Hope.” In his autobiography Last Words, Carlin recalled, “The election of Ronald Reagan might’ve been the beginning of my giving up on my species. Because it was absurd.”
We can only imagine how Carlin, who died in 2008, would have described the 2016 presidential election, in which Americans were given a choice between two of the most disliked people in the entire nation. If Carlin thought that the election of Reagan was absurd, what would he have called the election of Trump?
Hopeless, however, is not the same as broken.After Reagan was elected, Carlin became artistically energized, recounting, “I began to do something about my political ignorance.” He discovered Alexander Cockburn, Noam Chomsky, Hunter Thompson, and Gore Vidal—writers, Carlin tells us, “who said things in a daring manner, truly dissenting voices.”
Carlin had been a self-admitted “people pleaser” comic in the 1960s. He then connected with the counterculture in the 1970s. In the last chapter of his life, he became something of an anti-authoritarian prophet, who continues to remain easily accessible for young anti-authoritarians via YouTube.
Carlin was a far better therapist for critical thinkers than are the vast majority of my mental health professional colleagues. Shaming hopelessness as some kind of character flaw or, worse, psychopathologizing it as a…