Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson made a move that was unprecedented at the time and remains unmatched by succeeding administrations. He announced a War on Poverty, saying that its “chief weapons” would be “better schools, and better health, and better homes, and better training, and better job opportunities.”
Johnson seemed to have established the principle that it is the responsibility of government to intervene on behalf of the disadvantaged and deprived. But there was never enough money for the fight against poverty, and Johnson found himself increasingly distracted by another and deadlier war—the one in Vietnam. Although underfunded, the War on Poverty still managed to provoke an intense backlash from conservative intellectuals and politicians.
If you became interested in the subject of the dangerous effects of the delusional American capitalist ideology called ‘positive thinking’, you may want to watch a more extended presentation. You will need about an hour for this.
Friday, October 23, 2009 – 7:00 pm
Ehrenreich reveals how Positive Thinking has infiltrated every part of American culture and she exposes the downside of this insistence on always and only seeing the bright side. She tracks this phenomenon to all corners of society—the medical profession, which encourages staying positive as a form of healing; the mega-churches, which spread the good news of the prosperity gospel and that God wants you to buy that car or home, even if it means going further into debt; and most of all, the business community, where the refusal to consider negative outcomes—like mortgage defaults—and CEOs groundless optimism have replaced risk analysis as the basis for company decisions. Positive thinking has become a beacon of hope for many but all blind optimism has its consequences, not least a failure to find the real culprits or tackle the real causes at work. Bright-Sided is a call for a clear-eyed assessment of the problems at hand and a return to realism in America.
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. Continue reading “Bright-Sided – How Positive Thinking is Undermining America”