opinion | Can we put an end to America’s most dangerous myth?
It’s time to appreciate another facet of life: the power and ability to be dependent. I call it “the art of addiction”.
“The Art of Dependence” means accepting help with grace and, most importantly, recognizing the importance of others. It takes dignity and skill to lean on friends, family, and colleagues—and even the state. Collaboration requires ingenuity. We sometimes work hard to get what we ask for: Getting help from social services often involves what is known as administrative burden – the effort, knowledge and sheer time it takes citizens to obtain benefits. In a society that pathologizes addiction—even if every human being is born into it—it takes courage to be vulnerable.
Appreciating the art of dependency also means acknowledging the way most Americans live: About 25 percent of adults in the United States have some type of disability; More than 56 million Americans are enrolled in Medicare. In other words, millions of us are in need of help in some way. Needing support, be it physical or mental, or struggling through complex forms to receive unemployment benefits or college grants is part of community involvement. Asking for help and working with others requires patience, humility, and organization in some cases, and social skills in others. (It may also require manual labor. In fact, scholar William Hunting Howell, in his book “Against self-employment‘ used the phrase ‘arts of addiction’ to describe them handicrafts which were said to be derivative and collective, like early American women’s embroidery.)
For example, it takes craftsmanship and skill to support a family of five on tiny monthly food allowances; or wheelchair crossing crossroads, even if they are laid out with road cuts by the code, or to access childcare, or to find bosses who will tolerate or even encourage sick days. And the Americans who say that the major contributor to economic inequality is the personal choices people make — the 60 percent of Republicans who say that according to a 2020 Pew study – can imagine being independent and master of their own lives. But even they are not exempt from dependence. When privileged, they depend on tax breaks, peer and social connections, roads, telecommunications infrastructure, health insurance, and their employees. Part of acknowledging the art of dependency means we free people from the shame of their needs for others and expose the lie that they are self-made, as publicly propagated by some of America’s wealthiest people.
I’ve interviewed many people who have not only embraced the art of addiction, but have also worked to create frameworks for healthy dependency and interdependence, for oneself and for others. They ranged from a New York politician who started a mutual aid group in her Brooklyn neighborhood to a peer counselor at a nonprofit that offered help to adults with negative childhood experiences who felt it was far more important taking care of others in difficult situations than resilience.
https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/09/opinion/art-of-dependence.html opinion | Can we put an end to America’s most dangerous myth?