Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I Believe I Can Fly (You Are Sleeping)

You tell me:

Below are the last few closing paragraphs from an except of Barbara Ehrenreich's Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, and I want you, whenever you encounter it, to replace the phrase "positive thinking" with TMR's more-culturally-enveloping "NewAge", and then tell me if the passage doesn't make more sense:

"By the late first decade of the twenty-first century,...positive thinking had become ubiquitous and virtually unchallenged in American culture. It was promoted on some of the most widely watched talk shows, like Larry King Live and the Oprah Winfrey Show; it was the stuff of runaway best sellers like the 2006 book The Secret; it had been adopted as the theology of America’s most successful evangelical preachers; it found a place in medicine as a potential adjuvant to the treatment of almost any disease. It had even penetrated the academy in the form of the new discipline of 'positive psychology,' offering courses teaching students to pump up their optimism and nurture their positive feelings. And its reach was growing global, first in the Anglophone countries and soon in the rising economies of China, South Korea, and India.

But nowhere did it find a warmer welcome than in American business, which is, of course, also global business. To the extent that positive thinking had become a business itself, business was its principal client, eagerly consuming the good news that all things are possible through an effort of mind. This was a useful message for employees, who by the turn of the twenty-first century were being required to work longer hours for fewer benefits and diminishing job security. But it was also a liberating ideology for top-level executives. What was the point in agonizing over balance sheets and tedious analyses of risks—and why bother worrying about dizzying levels of debt and exposure to potential defaults—when all good things come to those who are optimistic enough to expect them?

I do not write this in a spirit of sourness or personal disappointment of any kind, nor do I have any romantic attachment to suffering as a source of insight or virtue. On the contrary, I would like to see more smiles, more laughter, more hugs, more happiness and, better yet, joy. In my own vision of utopia, there is not only more comfort, and security for everyone— better jobs, health care, and so forth—there are also more parties, festivities, and opportunities for dancing in the streets. Once our basic material needs are met—in my utopia, anyway—life becomes a perpetual celebration in which everyone has a talent to contribute. But we cannot levitate ourselves into that blessed condition by wishing it. We need to brace ourselves for a struggle against terrifying obstacles, both of our own making and imposed by the natural world. And the first step is to recover from the mass delusion that is positive thinking."

Did you catch that she closes with the warning "We cannot levitate ourselves"? That language doesn't make any sense, if the discussion is merely about "positive thinking" in America, does it? Come on, folks, you can't see/hear what I'm getting at there? I'd take a bet that Barbara Ehrenreich, and those who are currently interviewing her or even reading her book, don't comprehend that it's not merely addressing her ugly cancer-related encounter with "positive thinking" but - as indicated by that "levitate" line - Ehrenreich's ugly encounter becoming a book actually represents a larger (and infinitely more important) cultural event:

This maturing United States citizenry finally, slowly, waking up to the idea that we've been surviving, Matrix-like, under the direct effects of at least four decades of the cultish and narcissistic Baby Boomer's full-blown love affair with NewAge delusion.

Ehrenreich got a nice taste of it while she had cancer. That NewAgers would add to the discomfort of cancer should give anyone an idea of what's allowed to happen to outsiders with hardly notice or mention. As I continually point out, they also kill their kids, kill themselves, kill family members, gurus kill their followers, all the while insisting that everyone believe *something* so as to be happy, or blissed out, about the outcome. Ehrenreich likes to mention that anyone who could see through positive delusions, say about the economy, got fired. (Can't you hear the late-Maharishi giggling at that one?) That's a perfect illustration of the type of logic used - and, especially, how it's been applied - as NewAgers have been conducting themselves and the nation's business. Yet, somehow, they still wonder how they've gotten us in this mess? As The Beatles wrote to Mia Farrow's over-meditating sister, at the Maharishi's Indian retreat, in the song Dear Prudence:

"Look around."


  1. I'm curious: Where do you stand on the Balloon Boy issue? While the Heene family has some obvious NewAge tendencies, among other imperfections, I'm a bit frightened by how every little blogger in this country has starting nibbling on them like a piranha. I think what has many offended is Richard Heene's anti-"pussy" (i.e. pro-macho) outlook >>>





  2. Typical NewAge U.F.O. nut, teaching his kid to lie, and totally unworthy of sympathy of any kind.

    People disliking anyone masculine or macho is a NewAge mindfuck, too, because NewAge women sure do like it in the sack - and everyone prefers it when they're in physical danger. Otherwise, they talk shit as long as the law protects 'em.