As a benchmark to what I am about to write, I am offering the review of Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2009 book, Bright-sided, as a starting point. I have not read this book, so I am going by the review. I should read it, but lack of funds and a library system which makes it hard to get a copy of a book precludes me from obtaining a copy, sad to say. This also is commentary to contest another Ehrenreich book (2010), Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World. If you take the time to read my commentary, you will find that I contest Ehrenreich’s use of a predominance of a perverted version of positive thinking which borders on perverted optimism and in denial of the truth about positive thinking. Her words help to destroy what positive thinking is intended to be. Read on.
Also, I have been attempting to contact WordPress.com to learn how to do several things. One is to indent a quote like this. I have spent minutes and minutes on attempting to do this on this blog and have still not been able to learn it. Thanks so much to WordPress.com for helping out. Thanks so much for other blog services for (not) answering my questions about how I can convert my blog to another blog service. Thanks (not) so much to the monopolized business of America, run by billionaires who don’t pay taxes, while I do pay taxes.
Here is the review of Bright-sided on Amazon.com:
“A sharp-witted knockdown of America’s love affair with positive thinking and an urgent call for a new commitment to realism
Americans are a “positive” people―cheerful, optimistic, and upbeat: this is our reputation as well as our self-image. But more than a temperament, being positive, we are told, is the key to success and prosperity.
In this utterly original take on the American frame of mind, Barbara Ehrenreich traces the strange career of our sunny outlook from its origins as a marginal nineteenth-century healing technique to its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude. Evangelical mega-churches preach the good news that you only have to want something to get it, because God wants to “prosper” you. The medical profession prescribes positive thinking for its presumed health benefits. Academia has made room for new departments of “positive psychology” and the “science of happiness.” Nowhere, though, has bright-siding taken firmer root than within the business community, where, as Ehrenreich shows, the refusal even to consider negative outcomes―like mortgage defaults―contributed directly to the current economic crisis.
With the mythbusting powers for which she is acclaimed, Ehrenreich exposes the downside of America’s penchant for positive thinking: On a personal level, it leads to self-blame and a morbid preoccupation with stamping out “negative” thoughts. On a national level, it’s brought us an era of irrational optimism resulting in disaster. This is Ehrenreich at her provocative best―poking holes in conventional wisdom and faux science, and ending with a call for existential clarity and courage.”
From my perspective, after reading and spending a great deal of my life learning about Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale’s books about positive thinking, Ehrenreich describes a perversion of positive thinking which is just as perverted as the view about what capitalism is supposed to be about, as defined by Adam Smith (who also wrote, The Theory of Moral Sentiment). Whether education, psychology or business, people have grabbed at the ideas of positive thinking and used them to maintain their status quo about life. Typically, if I hear someone comment about positive thinking, I usually say, “you are talking about wishful thinking, not positive thinking. Go read Dr. Peale’s books.” In other words, people are writing about positive thinking (and capitalism, too) from their own individualistic eyes in order to massage their egos. Mary Trump, niece to Donald Trump does the same thing and from her perspective in psychology. She and the others are wrong in this sense and I believe I have a better knowledge of what positive thinking is about because I have read about the basics of those thoughts.
The reviewer mentions what I consider to be a misinterpretation of positive thinking. The review says, “…it leads to … a morbid preoccupation with stamping out ‘negative’ thoughts.” In fact, I have been criticized for trying to solve problems with a positive attitude by bringing up the problems and sounding negative by doing so. I am awe-struck at the predominance for “stamping out negative thoughts.” For Donald Trump himself, a number of times, I have tried to be positive about what he intends to do, but when I come up empty-handed and disappointed about his actions, I comment about this. For Trump, this criticism means a negative thought, not constructive criticism. Trump has acted like this over and over again, in line with this predominant attitude about putting down “negative thoughts,” wrongly associated with positive thinking. I do believe that both Dr. Peale and Dr. Schuler (Crystal Cathedral in California) have talked about constructive criticism, even if they have not used that particular phrase. People’s minds are messed up in this regard. I say this by way of constructive criticism, not negativity, but no one seems to understand what I say in this regard. Instead, we have “irrational optimism.” To me, it sounds like pessimism based on self-hatred.
My comment about the reviewer’s statement about Ehrenreich’s book regarding positive thinking: “…it leads to self-blame…”
Please read books: A Stranger to Self-hatred: A Glimpse of Jesus (Brennan Manning, 1982). Diana Butler Bass’s books, Christianity for the Rest of Us (2007), Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening (2012), and A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story (2010). Theologian, Adam Smith’s, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (published in the 18th Century, reprinted, 2018). Father Matthew Fox’s Original Blessings (2000); I condemn the American bishops for their recent proclaimed judgments which are blasphemy when considering God does the judging, and what these bishops are dictating – DICTATING – are that all Catholics believe in only one way (as a woman I once dated forced upon others in thought); the Roman Catholics who pushed this dictatorial way which led to the the excommunication of Father Fox, the English civil war of the 17th Century, and my ancestors who came to America to escape that BS in England. Read books by Roman Catholic layperson, Gary (or Garry) Wills, What Jesus Meant (a 2007 New York Times best seller) or What Paul Meant (2007), etc. who offers a very insightful view of Christianity.
Read a recent article in The Economist about the pervasive individualism in America today (“How Many American Children Have Cut Contact with Parents?”, 22 May 2021) which, with evidence, the writer claims the problems in America are due to the individualism which inundates and pervades society, not positive thinking.
Individualism has perverted the ideas of positive thinking so as to consider “…it leads to self-blame” and destruction of confidence with self-control and self-sacrifice for community and nation. Original sin leads to guilt of one’s existence and destroys ideas of confidence for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Instead, we end up, to the delight of Trumpicans, evangelical puritans, and Roman Catholic bishops, to a dictatorship with a vicious person at the head who can more easily control the people, rather than educate them and provide opportunities for all. The overriding impact of considering sin and guilt to be so important leads to self-blame and self-hatred, not positive thinking.
While I agree with the reviewers identification of positive thinking as the problem, my view is that Ehrenreich and others are viewing a “perverted” interpretation of positive thinking as being the blame, and they are correct, but only in that sense. I have to disagree with this assessment because, as Karl Marx did in blaming capitalism, it takes a toll and leads to an implosion which puts us on a downward slope.
This leads us to the downward slope the ancient Chinese experienced centuries ago. It had a society with opportunities for all by way of small business and academics, but a mean and vicious mentally ill emperor created ended up creating a very two-class society consisting of the wealthy and the impoverished. Fareed Zakaria gave us red flags because this possible implosion can push America into a similar implosion to what happened with a vicious emperor in Ancient China which lasted for centuries, until Mao Tse-Tung. The best example of capitalist democracy is on an island called Taiwan, but Mao Tse-tung lovers want to take that and turn it into rotten centralized planned economy with a dictator to suppress the masses. Read about the Ancient Chinese in Fareed Zakaria’s book, The Post-American World (2nd ed., 2012). His book sounds like a “negative” title, so it should be trashed, right? So why did yours truly, with a belief in positive thinking, read it? The book reviewer sums it up this way: “This is not a book about the decline of America, but rather about the rise of everyone else.” In other words, the book becomes a teachable moment, not a negative one. When Zakaria first wrote this book he included solutions as to how to overcome “what everyone else” is doing. It was ignored as being “negative.” As a result, American life has headed even more on a slippery downhill slope.
Shall I lay judgment on the Roman Catholic bishops? They have condemned the very people who are attempting to move America off that slippery downhill slope defined by Zakaria. When President Biden attempts to head us back up the slope, there is too damn much opposition to him, rather than lending him support to lead and do it. All based on a warped view of what are “negative” thoughts and ignores the truth about what it truly represents.
“Science of happiness?” Are you kidding me? There is no such thing as the “science of happiness.” It is the “art of happiness.” Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But for people to use individualism to project their happiness in a dictatorial way on all Americans is sickening and makes me nauseous and wishing to vomit. It makes the Roman Catholic bishops to force their happiness (power and control) on everyone else and I am sickened by that, too. I believe in Christ as the ONLY representative of God on earth and refuse to listen to a bunch of strong-arming heathens with power and control, heading up the American bishops. But I am not God and I cannot judge these bishops, Trumpicans, or evangelical s**t of puritans who become disgusted because someone, somewhere, is having a good time. Jesus Christ, a “stranger to self-hatred.” Yet, Roman Catholic bishops wish to FORCE self-hatred on members of its flock.
Do I make any sense or am I being negative?
Comment about book review of THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVITUDE: Donald Trump’s Washington and the Price of Submission, by Mark Leibovich
Kevin McCarthy and other followers of tRUMP exemplify one thing which is dangerous for America and its democracy. They follow the model of Machiavelli. The idea is that do anything necessary in order to make “the ends justify the means.” Does not matter whether its a matter of trouncing on ethics, morals, lies, hypocrisy, or corruption. Do it because the “ends justifies the means.”
Then there are those who simply follow along in submission because they are gay and prefer to remain in the closet while being blackmailed into submission.
What a shame that we have these things happening today with the prospect of stupidity to support such people and destroy this nation and its democracy. After all, “we the people” don’t count in such a parade of hypocrisy with dictators who promote the model of Machiavelli. In other words, Machiavellian types leading the mesmerized lemmings over the cliff.
Douglas W. Cornwell
Book Reviews, Commentary, Political Commentary