Sep 9, 2010 - Issue 392
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Good Thinking - Popularly Known as Positive Thinking: Barbara Ehrenreich’s Discussion of Bright-sided - How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America - Represent Our Resistance - By Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, PhD - BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board

   
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The ideal set up by the Party was something huge, terrible, and glittering - a world of steel and concrete, of monstrous machines and terrifying weapons - a nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting - three hundred million people all with the same face.
-George Orwell, 1984

 

To take a single example: the word goodthink, meaning, very roughly, “orthodoxy,” or, if one chose to regard it as a verb, “to think in an orthodox manner.” This inflected as follows: noun-verb, goodthink; past tense and past participle, goodthinked; present participle, goodthinking; adjective goodthinkful; adverb, goodthinkwise; verbal noun, goodthinker.
-George Orwell, 1984

“People’s mothers die!”

Cancer consumed my mother’s life in 1986, and, a month later, under the ether of the New World Order, a Black co-worker urged me to get over it - and be quick about it!

I have yet to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America, but I was pleased to know there is such a book critical of what goes by the brand name, positive thinking. I have long understood something about the philosophy of goodthink: it is numbness for the masses - without the cocoa leaves.

Consequently, when C-Span’s Book TV aired Ehrenreich’s talk at the 2010 Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest, I was willing to put aside her endorsement of the corporate-selected Barrack Obama and watch and listen.

Today, your attitude about the transition from the democratic experiment to the fascist state is under scrutiny. A bad attitude reflects thinking that is out of step, and to be out of step suggest that you doubt or question the natural progression of the State toward that more perfect union - of the docile and the oligarchy. If you have read George Orwell’s 1984, then you know that your attitude in the New World Order needs to be positive, cheery, unless Big Brother cues you to display anger at the enemy, who, like the friendly politician, is also selected.

Positive thinking philosophy has gone beyond those targeted populations in need of real attitude adjustments.

In 2000, Ehrenreich “picked up on an aspect of American culture” that she had not been exposed to before. Diagnosed with breast cancer, she entered the world where the medical community, friends, women’s organizations encircled her with the discourse of sunny-world philosophy. Everywhere she experienced this “constant pressure to think positive.” If Ehrenreich wanted to “get over” her disease, she had to “think positively.” Never mind that treatment for cancer in the U.S. bankrupts thousands each year; never mind that the most peddled treatment relies on the use of chemicals; never mind that while trillions are spent on war and the mass production of weaponry, funding for cancer research is cut. It was up to Ehrenreich to “recover or not.” The real disease was her bad attitude! Get a new attitude and begin by thinking of cancer as a gift!

Hit the lecture circuit and stand before the masses in praise of your good fortune, your gift!

As a mechanism to control thought, the positive thinking philosophy is everywhere. There is no need to see posters on walls of Big Brother’s eyes following your every move: the omnipotent and divine, a supporter of American Empire and positive thinking, has weighted in. Listen, Ehrenreich argues, to the message from the Evangelical Church: “God wants you to be rich. God wants you to have stuff - the biggest house, the fastest car, etc.” If you are not rich, then what are you doing wrong? What happened to the critical thinker and, as Ehrenreich characterized him, the “homeless vagrant guy who ends up being tortured to death?” That message, she said, is “screened out.” Ehrenreich explained, but that message is screen out. As I see it, artificial bliss sells acres and acres of prime property in paradise. Let the poor die!

The omnipotent and divine thinks like the oligarchy, and he thinks greed and the individual acquisition of wealth and material possessions. In the last 30 years, I have noted how the transformation of the omnipotent and divine into a world class capitalist shoveled aside the divinity who led the Black masses out of Egypt into the Promised Land back in 1865 and again in 1964 and 1965. Even in the Black Church, this divinity has been replaced with one who is aligned with upward mobility and capital. The New World Order is a gift to the chosen, the freed!

It is no accident that Rev. Martin Luther King’s poverty campaign died, even within the Black community. Who is to blame for misfortune but those who suffer misfortune? The victims of capitalism, greed, corruption, and indifference, millions of people around the world, have themselves to blame and the positive thinker need not consider how their thinking and beliefs contribute to the suffering and death of others. While more people are struggling to survive, the universities and the media, sites where the past and reality are shoved into 1984-type “memory holes,” sell recipes for happiness. As Ehrenreich observed, in general, poor people are less happy because they’re stressed out. There’s so much anxiety in their lives, day by day. I’m not going to sit down with a bunch of academics or philosophers and talk about ‘what is happiness and how do we best achieve it’ when there are people who can’t put food on the table for their children! You know, end of discussion! Get to work!

But to think of poverty in the world is to think pessimistically.

In the Ministries of Plenty, goodthink effectively produces happiness and poverty. The corporate workplace, Ehrenreich argues, will not tolerate pessimism and negativity. The “management gospel” is “eliminate negative people” with bad attitudes! If someone at Countrywide mortgage dared to express his or her concern that people might start defaulting. Out!” A top executive at Lehman Brothers, Ehrenreich recalls, was “eliminated” for daring to suggest that the housing boom was a bubble! A problem? Yes! “You just eliminate that negativity.”

“Don’t say anything negative. Don’t raise doubts or questions or we’ll fire you.” When you are fired or laid off to save profits for the corporations, you must take responsibility and buck up! Find work out there, somewhere. Go waltzing to interview after interview with a smile - a sincere smile - or we will know you are not with the pogrom. And remember, “It is not that bad.” “Now, get with it!”

With success and wealth right around the corner, you need to think hard. Not just any kind of thinking will do. Concentrate on the acquisition of money - because, if you did not know it, “it is so easy to attract money.” “You can have anything you want by concentrating on it.” If you fail, it is your fault!

Forgetfulness is positive thinking, Barbara!

How could Bright-sided fail to discuss the impact of Oprah Winfrey, major peddler of positive thinking? Oprah’s waltz from Beloved to the Secrets of Success is no surprise to a few of us Black Americans. What better way to assure the conformity of the Black masses after the assassination of the Civil Rights and the Black Power movements than to offer the survivors the numbing appeal of Oprah, goddess of bliss. Twenty-two million mostly Black and Latino and non-violent people lingering in metal cubicles in rural areas is the reality of American Empire and not something Oprah can peddle with a smile and a toss of the long hair. The newest African American role model of charm and success, Barrack Obama, certainly has no desire to disturb the tranquil sounds of humming drones or the dreams of the American flag atop oil fields and pipelines from the Middle East to the Caspian Sea. There is not a bad attitude between the two Os. Happy. Happy. Happy!

Goodthink tells us that these two Os are Black. As a Black, I would be embarrassed if I thought these two were Black. I have not forgotten.

Ehrenreich told her audience in Chicago that people need to listen to cancer patients to hear how they feel rather than tell them how to feel. But people, Barbara, would have to be trained to listen to people - and now they are only able to listen to the oratory of the entity that is calling itself a person. That person, that corporate entity, has taken over where the KKK and the racist laws left off. For a long while now, Black Americans have been told how to feel. It is not fashionable to listen to Black Americans. We can feel and talk all day long. But no one listens anymore. So it follows the natural laws of progress - no one can hear how the other feels when the other must feel happy anyway.

When Ehrenreich recalls the bumper stickers with the word “whining” in a red circle and a cancel sign across it, I think, yes, that is the symbol of the post-racial era. No whining, Black folks! No, no one wants to hear “whining” from cancer patients or from returning Iraq and Afghanistan vets now and signs order any visitor that stands before a customer service clerk not to complain. Eliminate “pessimism” which stands for thinking that is in opposition to positive thinking. Eliminate listening to the wrong influence.

Positive thinking is beneficial to a budding fascist state. How else can it gain a foothold and maintain its power, except by “perpetuating itself,” as Orwell suggests, assuring “the hierarchical structure remains always the same.”

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.

 
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