We Have Met the Enemy
self-control in an age of excess
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A witty and wide-ranging investigation of the central problem of our time: how to save ourselves from what we want.
Freedom is dangerous. Half of all deaths in America, for instance, come from overeating, smoking, drinking too much, failing to exercise, and other deadly behaviours that we indulge in against our own better judgement. Why are we on a campaign of slow-motion suicide?
While temptations have multiplied like fast-food outlets in suburbia, crucial social constraints have eroded. Tradition, family, church, and ideology have lost much of their capacity to circumscribe behaviour, while financial limits, once a ready substitute for thrift, were swept away by surging affluence and the remarkable open-handedness of lenders (a confluence that recently ended in tears). The result is a world that puts more pressure than ever on the ‘self ’ in self-control, sorely testing the limits of human willpower.
We Have Met the Enemy is a brilliant and irreverent search for answers that delves into overeating, overspending, procrastination, anger, addiction, wayward sexual attraction, and most of the other homely transgressions that bedevil us daily in a world of freedom, prosperity, and technological empowerment.
Using self-control as a lens rather than a cudgel, Akst draws a vivid picture of the many-sided problem of desire — and delivers a blueprint for how we can steer shrewdly toward the wants we most want for ourselves.