Sunday, March 08, 2009

Precarious Pollyanna and The Impotence of Positive Thinking

Why do the caustically cheerful or perfunctory perky, often times, trouble the nerves of the sepulchrally somber (Debbie Downers) amongst us ? Probably for the same reason the wording of this question is enough to make anyone's skin crawl. It tries way too hard to be something it's not.

Anyway, the genuinely joyful are excluded, unless, of course, they are morning people, then they're included, genuine or not. It's fairly easy to tell the difference between someone who just happens to be blessed with gleeful genes and the ones who create their cheery facade in order to hide the reptile that lurks beneath. If, all of a sudden, while talking to said person, despite his or her saccharine sweetness, an ax-murdering televangelist pops into your head...you know you've found yourself a charlatan of cheerful.

The "power" of one-dimensional positive thinking, underwrites the American belief that anything is possible and you will get whatever you want, even when accompanying circumstances are in clear opposition. In other words, if you fail to "achieve", it's your own fault because you lack the mental and emotional strength to stay chipper and perky despite the sky falling all around you. Just like in the book, "The Little Engine that Could", "I think I can" always translates to success.

However, when you think about it, the reason we're in this fiscal mess is because of this type of magical thinking, that distracts itself from anything that might interfere with its "positive" agenda. America doesn't like “negativity”, especially when it interferes with an envisioned fantasy that is supposed to transform their "reality".

Corporate America capitalizes on this false optimism and "Freudian denial" that defines our culture, in order to smooth over the fundamental contradictions and incoherencies that exist in the inconsistent logic it spews, which serves to line the top of the corporate hierarchy at our expense. Rose colored glasses are mandatory for employees in this environment and anyone who even questions or dares to face reality, quickly vanishes.

The enormous scale of deception that permeates our current economy has paid those who have participated in its creation very well. For all the rest of us...not so much. But, because so many Americans believe in the "power" of positive thinking, they dared not question the bill of goods being sold to them, in fear of being labeled "unpatriotic". You see, corporatism and consumerism is very intrinsic to patriotism, or so we're indoctrinated to believe.

On the other hand, negative thinking is certainly not the answer as it erodes self-confidence and motivation, and very often leads to depression. So, what is the answer? We could start by developing an awareness of things as they really are, and not how we would like them to be. Granted, it's not as easy as it sounds as we all carry with us, an inherent bias, that will delude our thinking. However, if it walks like a crook, quacks like a crook, and looks like a crook, it probably is a crook, no matter what color his skin, how much money he has, his status, etc...it's not rocket science.

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