Yana Djin

  The Right To Daily Bliss

Moscow News
July, 2000


The Talmud says that 40 days of happiness without sadness dulls the heart. Americans, however, vehemently pursue the belief that daily happiness is an inalienable right of every citizen who can afford it. The means of implementing this idea is threatening to change the country’s face in as little as 30 years. In the year 2030, a visitor to the United Sates may well observe a great number of people suffering from facial tics, such as involuntary protrusion of the tongue and chewing movements; neurologically driven agitation, ranging from mild leg tapping to wild flailing of arms; severe locking of limbs and body parts in bizarre positions; and parkinsonism.

The cause of such behavior is chemical and its name is Prozac – a household name in America by now, much like Corn Flakes. Despite the protests of some doctors and psychiatrists, the Federal Drug Administration is urging doctors nationwide to prescribe it without restraint. Why? Because it makes people happy, FDA answers, pointing to millions of Prozac popping patients looking placid and content.

But – does it really?

An acquaintance, whom I’ll refer to as John, did something which is a norm among human beings – he fell in love, only the lady did not return the favor. During the seven years of unrequited affection, he wrote letters and poems to his beloved. What the latter lacked in artistic taste, she made up in judicial erudition. She found his feelings too encroaching upon her privacy and put out a restraining order against John. But Don John would not let up. As a result, he was forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation.

The psychiatrist could not fathom any other diagnosis but an obsessive-compulsive disorder and prescribed the patient 50mg of Prozac daily. I always envied John – if not for the choice of his affection, then certainly for its consistency. John, however, was in no position to speculate: He would either have to pop Prozac or go to jail. Unfortunately for him, he chose the former.

Last time I saw him, he was a totally different man. Or, to be more precise, a totally indifferent man. The only sign that he was alive was the unyielding twitching of his eyes and this occasional annoying utterance: “I am happy. I love everybody.”

Some months later, John was sent to St. Elizabeth’s psychiatric ward by his parents. The all-American churchgoers were devastated by the fact that John, indeed, loved everyone: i.e. people of both sexes. At St. Elizabeth’s, after the in-creased dosage of the happy drug, John was cured: He had become impotent.

The latter, incidentally, is yet another side effect of Prozac.

So why is FDA for Prozac? Precisely because of its side effects, I am afraid. Prozac takes a healthy human being with all of his grief and joys and reduces him to brain-dead dullness. A man or woman who can genuinely feel grief or happiness is troublesome to American society that strives to make everyone into all-accepting slaves. Come to think of it, not much has changed since the slave-owning days, except now the

slaves no longer compose or sing the blues. They are too busy twitching. Then again, the slave is not a black man who can’t afford Prozac-happiness, but a middle-class white-collar worker who may, one day, feel the emptiness of his condition. Such a scenario does not guarantee worldly success. The FDA chairmen must have read Mark Twain’s advice: “All you need is ignorance and confidence, and success is assured.” Prozac certainly makes people ignorant. It makes them alien to their own existence and transports them away from their fate. And it orders them to be robotic workers and stable family men – building blocks of the community. This is why Prozac is approved and marijuana is illegal, while Hennessy is frowned upon. No one high on Hennessy exactly feels like becoming a building block. If anything, they feel like demolishing the building. Hence the war on drugs and alcohol, so popular in this country and so endorsed not only by the government but private industry as well. There is a thin line between the two. As for the suggestion that a whole generation might be rendered useless in 30 years, the FDA is not concerned – in 30 years, this generation will be too old to work. It will be time to concentrate on their children. If they can still produce them, of course. As for me, I find life a pretty sad affair which no drug can cure. Therefore, I urge my fellow sufferers to pick up a glass of Hennessey in times of weakness and repeat after Woody Allen: “Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. Let us hope that we choose wisely.”


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