restricted access Chapter 13.aWhy the Americans Appear So Restless Amid Their Well-Being
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942 s4s4s4s4s4 c h a p t e r 1 3a Why the Americans Appear So Restless Amid Their Well-Being You still sometimes find, in certain remote districts of the Old World,small populations that have been as if forgotten amid the universal tumult and thathaveremainedunchangedwheneverythingaroundthemmoved.Most of these peoples are very ignorant and very wretched; they are not involved in governmental affairs and often governments oppressthem.Buttheyusually show a serene face, and they often exhibit a cheerful mood. I saw in America the most free and most enlightened men placed in the a. Of restlessness of the heart in America. Although the Americans are a very prosperous people, they seem almost always restless and care-ridden; they constantly change places, careers, desires. That comes principally from these causes: Equality makes the love of the enjoyments of this world predominate. Now 1. Men who restrict themselves to the pursuit of the enjoyments of this world are always pressed by the idea of the brevity of life. They fear having missed the shortest road that could lead them to happiness. 2. The taste for material enjoyments causes intense desires, but leads easily to discouragement . For the effort that you make to attain the enjoyment must not surpass the enjoyment. 3. Equality suggests a thousand times more desires than it can satisfy. It excites ambition and deceives it. Men can achieve anything, but their individual weakness and competition limit them (YTC, CVf, p. 31). This chapter appears with the same title of restlessness of the heart in america in the rubish and manuscript. A page of the rubish contains the following note: “Small chapter done with great difficulty. To delete perhaps, but to review in any case. Perhaps in order to avoid the commonplace, I fell into the forced./ “Immoderate desire for happiness in this world, that arises from democracy. Idea to make emerge better from the chapter” (Rubish, 1). restlessness amid well-being 943 happiest condition in the world; it seemed to me that a kind of cloud habitually covered their features; they appeared to me grave and almost sad, even in their pleasures.b The principal reason for this is that the first do not think about the evils that they endure, while the others think constantly about the goods that they do not have.c It is a strange thing to see with what kind of feverishardortheAmericans pursue well-being, and how they appear tormented constantly by a vague fear of not having chosen the shortest road that can lead to it.d The inhabitant of the United States is attached to the goods of this world, as if he was assured of not dying, and he hastens so much to seize those goods that pass within his reach, that you would say that at every instant he is afraid of ceasing to live before enjoying them. He seizes all of b. I arrived one night in the company of several savages at the house of an American planter. It is the dwelling of a rich planter and at the same time a tavern. You saw reigning there great ease and even a sort of rustic luxury. I was brought into a welllighted and carefully heated room in which several men of leisure from the neighborhood were already gathered around a table laden with grain whiskey. These men were all more or less drunk, but their drunkenness had a grave and somber character that struck me. They talked painfully about public affairs, about the price of houses, about the hazards of commerce and the cycles of industry. The Indians remained outside, although the night was rainy and they had [only (ed.)] a few bad rags of blankets to cover themselves. They had lighted a large fire and sat around on the humid earth. They spoke happily among themselves. I did not understand the meaning of their speeches, but the noisy bursts of their joy at each instant penetrated the gravity of our banquet (Rubish, 1). c. “The inhabitant of the United States has all the goods of this world within reach, but can grasp none of them without effort” (Rubish, 1). d. “All of that still much more marked in the revolutionary period and in unbelieving democracies./ “The Americans are materialistic by their tastes, but they are not by their ideas. They ardently pursue the goods of this world, but they have not ceased believing in the existence of another one” (Rubish, 1). 944 restlessness amid well-being...