I am David Brooks’s Deepest Self

Fucking scientists! First they’re showing me these really great pictures of naked ladies, I mean totally naked, nipples and everything, and just when I’m getting in the groove, I’m picturing Debbie Lowenstein’s face instead of the model’s, and she’s whispering that it’s okay for me  to do what I want to do to her, finally after all these years and Dave doing his best to stop it from happening, and they sneak up behind me and pop a paper bag next to my ear. Fuckers. I tried my best to hold on to that picture in my head, Debbie all naked and ready and shit, I mean you have no idea how hard it is to stay focused under those circumstances, especially when I’m still recovering from those damn kids he insisted on having, kept me up all night, plus all those years the wife was totally unavailable, years of either riding the hump or listening to her bitch about how she’s all tired and crabby from the kid being at her tits all day, and I’m just beginning to get my mojo back, Debbie’s right there, I’m feeling the old tickle in my balls, and POP!

The next thing you know, the scientists are nodding to each other about how I’ve become less alert to danger. But did they ask me? No, they did not. So I couldn’t tell them that I was fully aware of the noise, my prefrontal cortex was actually screaming in my ear, but I was just telling it to shut the fuck up before Debbie abandoned me. Which she did, of course. And then, the next next thing you know, Dave is going on about how this proves something about something about love.

Oh, well. I guess I should be used to it. He may not hear me, but I can hear him just fine. Dave doesn’t think so, of course. He probably doesn’t even think I’ve learned English, or that I’m there every minute of every day—when he tears up listening to Kate say to Bogie, “Nature, Mr. Allnutt, is what we are put in this world to rise above,” or when he writes in his diary that night, “Good thing for Charlie that Rose was on the African Queen long enough to ovulate. But too bad for her. She should have stuck to her guns rather than turn into just another slightly higher animal. But at least she got Charlie to sacrifice himself in the end.” Or when he reads about some fancy theologian who says that suffering is a good thing because it scours away the floors and gets you deeper and deeper, like life is a housekeeping Olympics, and the winner is the one who scours not just the dirt but the tile itself, like I’m just scum to be scrubbed away by the steel wool of Dave’s higher self. I feel so misunderstood, and I’m really getting tired of it.

See, I know you don’t believe this, Dave, but I am as deep as it gets. And I’m smart enough to know what you think of me, that I’m just some sort of Caliban to your Ariel, natural selection infused into dopamine and testosterone, and then distilled into impulses and predispositions that need to be transformed into something spiritual and permanent like dying for  my religion, or working for NPR. Whether either of us likes it, I’m along for the ride. I am right there in your tongue as it clucks at the scientists who insist that human nature is no more or less than Plato’s chariot, executive function struggling to rein in both reason and impulse for no higher purpose than the preservation of the species. I am in your brain as you insist that there must be more to it than this animal imperative, that true depth is achieved only when you choose to suffer, that the good society is the one that affords ample opportunities to make that choice, maybe even insists upon it. And I’m in your eyes when you read your own newspaper, the one that chronicles the suffering that people don’t choose, all those poor benighted people who can only flail in the shallows of their own squalid origins, whose suffering has no depth and can only be relieved by following their animal impulses.

I’m dying in here, Dave. And not only because you dismiss me as fragmented and swinish, or think that your life is meaningful only to the extent that you can turn me into something I’m not. Religious people have been doing that for thousands of years. It’s because you don’t seem to understand how much you need me. Who do you think created you or drove you to your lofty newsprint perch? Where do you think the idea that the world needs more suffering comes from, or the belief that words like “web of unconditional loves” or “permanent commitments to transcendent projects” actually mean something, or the conviction that there isn’t enough suffering the world? Where do you think you get the capacity to overlook the hubris of your pronouncements, the superficiality of your grasp of science, the vapidity of a notion like “core wounds and core loves”? From me. You get all this from me, from this dirty-minded, low-rent, hedonistic, power hungry animal who lives deep inside you. Add it up, Dave. You owe me. Big time.

Actually, when the scientists showed up with the pictures, I thought you were paying me back. I actually believed for a moment you were finally recognizing that we’re in this thing together, Rose and Charlie fighting and fucking our way onto Lake Victoria, blowing up the Louisa, just letting it rip. And I thought I was repaying your gratitude with that photoshop job, Debbie L. so perfectly rendered, ready for our mutual delectation. I thought we were going to get closer to even. And then POP!


7 Responses to “I am David Brooks’s Deepest Self”

  1. Lyle Slack says:

    Gary, first, thank you for saving me from actually having to read David Brooks’ columns. Your re-rendering of them has the weird effect of transmuting his pseudo-intellectualizing into something actually thoughtful. However — I’m seriously concerned about the effect on your own mental health of reading Brooks on a regular basis. That can’t be good for anyone.

  2. Justin G. says:

    I have no idea what it is that I just read. I enjoyed it though. I think. My head hurts.

  3. gary says:

    And I have no idea if this comment is legit or spam, but this is basically how I feel every time I read Brooks, so here it is.

  4. Justin G. says:

    Who me? Not spam. I enjoyed the flow of this post. Although the context eludes me. Must find out who this Brooks fellow is…

  5. William says:

    Sorry for the off-topic comment, although it does fall a couple months off the heels of the infamous David Brooks marijuana post! I have read both your books Manufacturing Depression and The Book of Woe. As a victim of psychiatry from age 14 up until 33, having been totally sold the line of bull about depression and antidepressants, I have reached a point of absolute fury over the misgivings, horrendous side effects and adverse reactions inflicted on vulnerable children, teenagers and adults. Not only is the DSM and psychiatry bullshit, but all of the average allopathic doctors and psychiatrists are not aware of the fact that it is bullshit and are thus perpetuating an endless onslaught of medical malpractice on countless millions of people.

    Having gotten that out of the way, I wanted to bring up natural medicine, including natural psychoactive medicine such as marijuana and MDMA. In your book ‘Manufacturing Depression’ you mentioned an incredible loving experience which defined antidepression for you – and it only required ONE dose! As you are probably aware, there is a resurgence in psychedelic psychotherapy and can be seen in recent academic gatherings such as ‘Psychedemia’: psychedemia.org and many new studies showing how psilocybin mushroom use can repair brain cells and reduce anxiety etc.

    I think getting this paradigm-shifting message across is not only critical in getting away from the nightmare that modern psychiatry has become, as evidenced perfectly in your recent book (and admitted to by the main players of the APA), but it is also a controversial topic perfect for some more Gary Greenberg Online treatment!

    Thanks for all of your groundbreaking work. I sincerely wish you were my therapist! I have a lot of healing from psychiatry to do…

  6. Jeff S says:


    I concur! But what do you expect from a guy whose right-wing ideology makes him simultaneously de-reify and reify humans (e.g. “Depth is built” vs. “core of our being”), even as he takes historically constructed social-economic rationalizations of class relations as “natural” (i.e. John Locke, Adam Smith). Re: Locke -Yah, sure, since we can’t locate who’s who down Adam’s genealogical tree, stuff belongs to everybody until we read money back into a state of nature.

    Jesus Christ on a bicycle! Dumb shit Brooks obviously never read your Book of Woe re: reification. And as you note, he clearly possesses little of the “depth” he preaches with respect to science (e.g. evolution, primatology)

    Here’s some food for thought:

    How, pray tell, does one “surpass nature”? I’d love to hear from anyone who can empirically verify that which exists outside existence. Consequently, I also don’t believe in wood nymphs, trolls, homunculi, fairies, or Dumbledore and Harry Potter.

    And talk about linguistic-epistemic torture…What, exactly, is “depth”; for fucksake, now we’re back in the DSM diagnostic realm of qualitatively vague language (e.g. Gary’s patient, Claudia: Did she have “a weak sense of autonomy/agency”???). Shit, I feel helpless all the time…Better get on Zoloft; oops, already on it, and I don’t dare stop because of the crippling brain chemistry issues of withdrawal.

    Per the aforementioned “core of our being,” I would love it if Brooks could assist me in locating mine. I’ve looked everywhere for, even the fridge, but it refuses to surface. Perhaps my ADD’s responsible….Better get on Ritalin; oops, already on it (really, I am). Incidentally, my use provides yet another cautionary tale regarding the dangers of reading, in this case a NYT article addressing high school students who crush and snort Ritalin before the SAT (off-label, but not illegal). Well, knowledge is a dangerous thing; how could I NOT try it???? Shit, one more bad habit.

    Re: Brooks’ ignorance about science/evolution. As I’m narcissistic, but not a conceited asshole, I never talk out my bunghole about what I don’t know. Clearly, Brooks must be Gore Vidal’s William F. Buckley, a guy who buys the book but only reads the dustcover.

    I’ve taught college using primatologist/ethologist Frans DeWaal’s Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. His book offers empirical studies of primates (e.g. chimps, bonobos, etc.)that demonstrate higher level thinking (e.g. planning/thinking about the future, sympathy, reciprocal altruism, and related to all this, an ability to foresee future suffering [think chimps in labs]). The book refutes the supposed “leap of faith” necessary for judges to grant these animals “legal standing” (not the same as calling them human), and thus immediately rule/demand their release from prison (i.e. labs, the circus)–On this see NYT Magazine about Tommy the chimp’s case.

    Not only does this problematize Brooks’ simpleton notions regarding human exceptionalism–and no doubt his ideological corollary, American exceptionalism [i.e. reification, Locke’s Adam genealogy, his possessive individualism, Adam Smith, and that tired American bootstrapping narrative]–it clearly refutes his intellectually vacuous and cheesy philosophical ponderings, namely, all that phony baloney sputtering about “spirit,” “faith,” “nation,” etc..

    To quote John Oliver: “Fuck You” (David Brooks)

    What world does this guy live in, and why do infotainment outlets and NPR give him a venue to spew this gibberish????


  7. […] off writing about psychiatry. (How many times can you point out the obvious?) Then I swore off writing about David Brooks. (I really truly began to feel sorry for the big lug–not for having to […]

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