Michael Fumento reviews Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Bright Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, in his article, The Negative Side Of Positive Thinking
Unhinged optimism is pervasive, but the real culprits are those who profit from it: motivational speakers and writers, “life coaches” and various gurus, as well as the “pastorpreneurs” of the “prosperity gospel” movement. These chuck aside Christ’s teachings to declare that “God wants us to … have plenty of money to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us.”
Yet all these scoundrels themselves admit positivism is a mass delusion, describing it variously as “self-hypnosis,” “mind control” and “thought control.” In other words, says Ehrenreich, “it requires deliberate self-deception, including a constant effort to repress or block out unpleasant possibilities and ’negative’ thoughts.”
If it isn’t obvious to you why blissful ignorance isn’t a good goal, Ehrenreich provides numerous reasons.
For the cancer patient who’s told malignancies can be eliminated with cheerfulness, “failure” weighs “like a second disease,” she says. Indeed, while you constantly hear that you can have it all if only you believe that you can, Ehrenreich says, “there is the darker message that if you don’t have all that you want, if you feel sick, discouraged, or defeated, you have only yourself to blame.”
Likewise, in our moral system, says Ehrenreich, “either you look on the bright side, constantly adjusting your attitude and revising your perceptions—or you go over to the dark side.” As Anthony on the Twilight Zone would have put it, “You’re a very bad man!” Next thing you know, you’ve been whisked away to the corn field.
You see, negative attitudes not only drag you down but are contagious, hence the advice of many motivational speakers and writers and “life coaches” to, as one book exhorts, “GET RID OF NEGATIVE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE.” But eschewing realists and pessimists is dangerous because they act as a brake on irrational exuberance. Maybe your mood should be deflated.
I have had to distance myself from negative people, but it was not because they “acted as a brake on irrational exuberance”; it was because they were undermining actively every damn thing I attempted to do. There’s a difference.
I read Ehrenreich’s book, recommend it, and agree with Michael and his conclusion,
The Serenity Prayer’s invocation to have “courage to change the things I can” and “to accept the things I cannot” is a much better guide than anything Dale Carnegie ever wrote or that your life coach has to offer. Just remember that while life can be beautiful, pretending it is doesn’t make it so.
Not unrelated, ShrinkWrapped’s post, The legacy of teaching “self-esteem” in our schools
Here we have the legacy of the “Self Esteem” movement that has swept through Academia: It is bad enough that we are being led by a collection of overmatched, overeducated, under-experienced collection of empty suits; now we should also be expected to give them credit for how hard they are trying.
And, on top of that, we should be repressing negative thoughts about what a lousy job they are doing.
Joe Lima sent a link to Storyboarding the News: How the MSM Turned the Honduran Crisis into A Comic Book:
That is a storyboard that President Obama knows well and, as the Harvard law school graduate seems to prefer, one that requires little prudence and scant knowledge of the specific case at hand.
So on the day after a unanimous (15-0) ruling of the Honduran Supreme Court, a majority being justices from Mel Zelaya’s own party including those appointed to the court by Zelaya himself, U.S. President Barack Obama declared to a TV news camera that the Honduran “coup” was “not legal.”
No evidence was presented nor expected. On an MSM storyboard, balanced legal analysis is confusing, it hobbles the narrative. An easier fit is to offer news converted into a comic strip. Only pictures matter.
Because it’s all about the comic strip, the “feel good”, the quick fix – and the failure to admit failure.
Let’s not forget the attitude in the Obama administration that they are acting from a higher moral plane, and we ought to follow their dictates blindly.
On that subject, listen to Thomas Sowell talk about intellectuals and vision, at Uncommon Knowledge.