While I don’t believe a “heterofamilial, upwardly-mobile good-life fantasy” to be inherently destructive itself, I agree the idea of it as an exclusive archetype to be a crippling one. More importantly, that we devote so much to maintaining the perception or even illusion of this fantasy and its core tenants—wealth, beauty, etc. etc.—reinforces [a theorist whose name escapes me]’s idea that the signifier and signified getting so far removed from the referent that our idea of reality is real to us but not real in substance.
But therein lies the crux of the issue: we become so tied to material manifestations of what we want to be that we buy the car we can’t afford or eat desserts in public to display that we’re not worried about food and then secretly in private because we can’t control it. Taking a step back to honor and develop what success means for each of us, to destabilize and complicate the value axes that are so deeply entrenched in our society, would open space for more people to feel more dynamically included. The project of “admit[ting] your surprising attachments, [tracing] your transformation over the course of a long life sentence, is sentience.”
This statement is problematic in (1) presuming the availability of the luxury of time to indulge in such pursuits across the 99% (or my statement is problematic in reflecting that prioritizing the project is completely out of bounds) and (2) framing our existence in this as a prison sentence with no hint of parole. With the precariats robbed of the legacy of the past’s relevance—factory jobs and the social mobility that came with them by such safe, conventional routes is not coming back—we’re stuck looking into the future, we’re stuck with only half of what Andersen identified as a key focal point for imagined communities. Trying to build the material repertoire for that future without the underlying reflexive toolkit makes a potentially hospitable area atrociously alientating, until we’re uncomfortable even within (and as perpetuated by) ourselves.
Celebrating the opportunity to get to the core of what matters versus chastising the masses for where they are now would be a great first step.