solutionism

Don't Leave Beauty Standards to Americans

Indoctrinated by the relentless, repressive optimism of the Protestant work ethic, Americans don't understand that in order to truly appreciate happiness, you must fully know sadness; and in order to be truly sexy or beautiful, you must have a certain capacity for ugliness that brings your handsome features and charming qualities into sharp relief. This is why conventionally attractive people are widely palatable (i.e. "conventional"), but very seldom sexy or beautiful. Just think of Taylor Swift or Kendall Jenner, both youthful, pretty, leggy, and woefully unmemorable. Or, consider the mystifying success of Brad Pitt, who is a mediocre actor in addition to being a sorry male specimen, whereas his so-called doppelganger, Benicio del Toro, is not only a stellar actor but also incredibly attractive, in a louche, rakish way.

A Tale of Two Cynics

Years ago, in 2013, I went to see the internet and technology critic Evgeny Morozov give a talk at MoMA PS1 with a guy named David Auerbach, who describes himself as a writer and software engineer, but in practice amounted to something like a Silicon Valley mouthpiece. At the time, Morozov had just published his second book, To Save Everything, Click Here, a takedown of what he called "solutionism," the Valley's basic organizational ethos that identifies problems as problems on the basis of whether or not they can be "solved" (and which has trickled down into the cultural vulgate as "there's an app for that").