Tuesday, October 13, 2009

relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined america

AlterNet | The author talks about how a plague of positive thinking is permeating our society, from medicine to business, and is even contributing to our financial crisis. When Barbara Ehrenreich went to be treated for breast cancer, she was exhorted to think positively; and when she expressed feelings of fear and anger, she was chided for being negative.

Ehrenreich, the author of 16 books, including Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch, which examine the blue- and white-collar job markets, took on what she sees as an epidemic of positive thinking in her new book: Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America.

Positive thinking is different, she says, from being cheerful or good-natured -- it's believing that the world is shaped by our wants and desires and that by focusing on the good, the bad ceases to exist.

Ehrenreich believes this has permeated our culture and that the refusal to acknowledge that bad things could happen is in some way responsible for the current financial crisis.

In her new book, Ehrenreich examines how the positive-thinking movement was started by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, and an amateur metaphysician named Phineas Parkhurst Quimby in response to Calvinism; how being positive became mandatory in corporate culture; and how she thinks prosperity preachers, such as Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston encouraged a culture of debt by telling their congregations that God wants them to have a big house and a nice car.