Does the West have a self-obsession problem?

That’s a great question, and the answer is both yes and no. In the book, I argue that the West is basically an individualist culture, and that causes us all sorts of problems. On the one hand, putting all the focus on the individual as the locus of success can be a good thing because you’re saying to people, “You can do anything; you can change the world on your own two feet,” and that’s incredibly motivating.

But this is also a bad thing because we give ourselves too much credit for successes and too much blame for failures. The problem with individualism is that it ignores the fact that we’re social creatures, that we live and survive and succeed in tribes. We call ourselves failures, we call ourselves losers, and that’s the beginning of a descent into a range of dangerous mental health problems. And the truth is that our successes and our failures are the product of so many factors we don’t control that it’s a fantasy to believe that we alone are solely responsible for who and what we are.

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