How Barbara Ehrenreich Ruined my Movie Night....
Huge Disclaimer: As someone not living in the United States, I might not be the best person to be commenting about an author whose book carries the tagline: "How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America." Maybe the cult of Positive Thinking really is a USA-only thing. I haven't lived in the US for much time in the past 6 years, so maybe she's spot on. I'm still skeptical. Check out what I'm talking about:
Man, I love the Daily Show. I only just now rediscovered it because, well, I'm living in Germany. Yesterday was a day of watching "good things" so we started our little marathon of Prime Time TV and movies by watching the October 14th episode of The Daily Show, with guest Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of books I'd never heard of. (You can watch the episode online by clicking HERE).
If you're not into watching episodes online (legally, I might add!), check out this Blog post of her's by clicking HERE.
Check it out and form your own opinion. The issue I have with it is that she seems to be against Positive Thinking as a religion...she talks at length about hippy-esque positive energy being able to shape the world around them but it's this horrible over-generalization. I don't know if I'm articulating this properly....but basically she's against telling people who are sick, depressed, or out of work to "Stay positive". She's potentially the most cynical person I know. Which is awesome, but her attitude toward the "Evil" of positive thinking as a whole is what left a bad taste in my mouth. Again, I don't know if she's really against ALL positive thinking but that's pretty much what she says.
So I'm watching Star Trek and Spock tells the captain that there's only a 4% chance that they'll be able to survive. Kirk tells Spock that "Everything will be Alright". Me and my older woman immediate chime in "THE EVIL OF POSITIVE THINKING!" in unison.
From her Blog:
"When it comes to how we think, “negative” is not the only alternative to “positive.” As the case histories of depressives show, consistent pessimism can be just as baseless and deluded as its opposite. The alternative to both is realism – seeing the risks, having the courage to bear bad news, and being prepared for famine as well as plenty."
The problem is that in our fiction and sometimes in reality, we're surrounded by horrible, overwhelming odds that if we're realistic, there's not hope. Sure it's more heroic to think you're most likely going to die, but Barbara is apparently against telling people who are about to die "everything will be fine." Which is noble, in a way, but next time you watch a movie and something bad happens see how quickly the hero uses the deception of Positive Thinking. Sorry hero, most likely we're all going to horribly die. I keep looking at Star Wars and, when I think about it, C3PO was the most realistic character in that movie, because he kept going on and on about how he was going to die. Other random things:
"As God as my witness, I will never go hungry again."
-Postive Thinking from Gone with the Wind (Evil, OMG!)
Mr. Rad: Get yo' head up. You lost the money, it's gone. But, you can't lay around in yo' misery too long. Do *not* walk outta' this place and start to second guess yo' talent. You got yo' ass whooped tonight. But, I done seen y'all whoop a many a ass, right in the same place. Now, you lost. Lemme tell you somethin' my father told me, is: "If it don't kill you, it makes you stronger". Remember that.
-From "You Got Served" (I have no idea if this is positive thinking or realism, but since not all things that don't kill you make you stronger, I'm going to hedge my bet and put it over onto the side of wicked deception.)
And that's me rambling. Read her Blog, watch the interview, and maybe read her book. I know I will just because of the sheer thought she's inspired in my own home. She's awesome but, unless she just sucks at explaining her point in a concise fashion, she seems to also be very wrong...at least in my experience. When reality sucks, being realistic borders on suicidal. If I didn't believe that one day I'd be able to make a living doing what I love, I would have given up on painting and gone back to that well-paying office job I had years ago.
And again, I'm sure I'm misunderstanding her point. She seems to be speaking from personal experience involving economics and self-help cults, but at the same time she lashes out against Positive Thinking itself, which is why she's created so much energy to talk about her.
"Who thought HE was Cynical until he learned who Barbara was"
Why am I reminded of the Nihilist philosophic arguments of the late 1970's? If you studied philosophy or are familiar with John Gardner's Grendel, then you may very well know why they spring to mind.
And this is telling. From Barbara's Bio that's outdated and obviously talking about her new book:
"I’m now researching for a book on what I call “the cult of cheerfulness,” which requires Americans to “think positively” rather than to take positive action for change"
If she'd said that at some point with any conviction, it would have saved me a lot of hilarious "How Can you Be So Wrong" moments yesterday. Positive Action for Change? Awesome. Being Realistic when you can't do anything about it, such as when you have cancer? Less Awesome. There's still some weird mixed messages there, but I think ultimately she meant to do good with her joy-killing tome. Only time will tell.