Saturday, November 16, 2013

Happy, Happy, Happy

Barbara Ehrenreich's - Bright-Sided: How The Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America
"In fact, there is no kind of problem or obstacle for which positive thinking or a positive attitude has not been proposed as a cure." ... "AT&T sent its San Francisco staff to a big-tent motivational event called "Success 1994" on the same day the company announced that it would lay off fifteen thousand workers in the coming two years.  As Time's Richard Reeves reported, the message of the featured speaker - the frenetic Christian motivator Zig Ziglar- was, "It's your own fault; don't blame the system; don't blame the boss- work harder and pray more."
Jackson Lears in the Nation - Get Happy!!: For Margaret Thatcher as for today’s happiness industry, there is no such thing as society.
"It doesn’t take a social scientist to see that a blizzard of how-to books on “positivity” suggests its lack in everyday life. Behind the facade of smiley-faced optimism, American culture seems awash in a pervasive sadness, or at least a restless longing for a sense of fulfillment that remains just out of reach."
"It's an ingenious business model, when you think about it: promise to help people think positive, then when your techniques fail, conclude that they weren't thinking positively enough--sending them back for more."
It's obviously your fault.  No money?  The lack of middle-class jobs aren't because of  the vanishing platforms that created them, or the 1% and their greed, the fact that you don't have a decent job is a sign of personal weakness.  Sick?  It isn't the chemicals, pesticides, corrupt medical and insurance industries - it's you, and your lousy attitude.

The other piece of this, which Ehrenreich goes into, is that your job loss, your sickness, etc. isn't just your fault, but since you find yourself in this position, you can't improve unless you embrace it.  You should consider your sickness as a gift, one you should learn from and use to improve yourself. Thus, it's not only not "our" fault you got sick, it's not "our" fault you aren't getting better.

Again, from Barbara Ehrenreich:
"Breast cancer, I can now report, did not make me prettier or stronger, more feminine or spiritual.  What it gave me, if you want to call this a "gift," was a very personal, agonizing encounter with an ideological force in American culture that I had not been aware of before- one that encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune, and blame only ourselves for our fate."
 "An ideological force... that encourages us to deny reality..."  Brilliant.  And the challenge is this denial of reality, is becoming the essence of our normality (as I've continuously suggested on the blog).  As a culture we are becoming incapable of looking at the structures, and the destruction of capacities and platforms needed to address our serious challenges.  We blame ourselves, and we blame others who don't have the "right" attitude. I challenge us all to stand up to those who blame the victims.  Fight for programs that lift up, just laws, and living wage jobs.  And show compassion for those suffering... finally, again from Ehrenreich:
"The threats we face are real and can be vanquished only by shaking off self-absorption and taking action in the world.  Build up the levees, get food to the hungry, find the cure, strengthen the "first responders"! We will not succeed at all of these things, certainly not all at once, but- if I may end with my personal secret of happiness- we can have a good time trying."

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