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Americans, Their Smiley-Face Facade, and RealityViews: 434
Oct 22, 2009 6:12 amAmericans, Their Smiley-Face Facade, and Reality#

John Stephen Veitch
By Robyn Blumner

October 20, 2009 "SLT" -- Whenever I think of the smiley-face icon, I think of Wal-Mart because of its once-ubiquitous ad campaign. And when I think of Wal-Mart, I think of crappy wages and insecure employees who probably live paycheck to paycheck. That metaphor -- the happy face fronting a world of worry -- is the subject of a new book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America , by social commentator Barbara Ehrenreich.

Ehrenreich's bout with breast cancer and the cloying "pink ribbon culture" that surrounds this dreaded disease (she was urged to see her cancer as a "gift") made her explore our cultural obsession with being happy. The book's point is that realism is being elbowed out of the way by all the life coaches, self-help books and prosperity gospel preachers like Joel Osteen who tell us that a positive outlook will lead to success, riches and the fulfillment of all of life's desires. These heaping helpings of sunny optimism are subtly diverting us from grappling with serious social and economic issues in ways that can truly bring about change.

The Secret became a runaway best-seller by telling readers that they could have anything they wanted just by imagining it. The book was obviously unadulterated bunk, but it sold madly as people grasped at any chance to better their lives.

One has to wonder if such magical thinking would have been so popular if people felt they had temporal power to change the conditions of their work and prospects.

The reason that so many Americans have jobs that don't pay enough is not that they didn't channel enough positive energy into getting a better salary, but that wages have been stagnant for 30 years. And the reason that wages have barely budged is that America's wealthiest households just kept slicing themselves a larger piece of the income pie.

Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent of American households saw their share of all pretax income nearly double, while the bottom 80 percent had their share fall by 7 percent. Ehrenreich quotes The New York Times , saying, "It's as if every household in the bottom 80 percent is writing a check for $7,000 every year and sending it to the top 1 percent."

Every working stiff in the bottom 80 percent should be outraged and politically motivated to force change. But if everyone is convinced of the convenient nostrum that our own attitude controls how much we are paid, then workers won't band together to demand a larger share of our national prosperity.

This positive-thinking message is a kind of opiate that has been particularly effective on the white-collar corporate workforce. Ehrenreich documents how corporations hire motivational speakers to convince laid-off workers that their job loss is "an opportunity for self-transformation." Somehow, she says, white-collar workers have accepted positive thinking as a "belief system" that says a person can be "infinitely powerful, if only they could master their own minds."

On the surface, prosperity gospels and positive-thinking companies appear harmless with their treacly "Successories products" of posters and coffee mugs, but they have subversively helped make each of us an island. They have convinced Americans that each individual has control and power over the conditions of their life, when that is largely not the case. Access to decent health care at a reasonable price is not a matter of individual effort. Neither is securing decent wages, pensions, safe working conditions or job security. Workers demanded those rights through collective action in the 20th century, and we are losing them now by taking an "every man for himself" approach to work.

The ultimate irony is that even with the booming positive-thinking industry, Americans are not among the happiest people.

International surveys put us behind places such as Denmark and Switzerland, where the social safety net is stronger.

It seems that happy thoughts don't alter the reality of American life, with all its attendant risks to middle-class living standards. Behind the smiley-face facade, we are privately worried, and we have reason to be.

2009 Salt Lake Tribune

John Stephen Veitch; The Network Ambassador
Open Future Limited - http://www.openfuture.co.nz/
Innovation Network - http://veech-network.ryze.com/
Building an Open Future - http://openfuture-network.ryze.com/

Private Reply to John Stephen Veitch

Nov 08, 2009 4:19 pmre: Americans, Their Smiley-Face Facade, and Reality#

Lamar Morgan 954-603-7901

John,

I am with on this idea that "happy thoughts do not alter American life." But, by the same token, just being angry does not help makes things better, either. And, I should know. Right now, I am one of the angry people. I am not happy with the way things are right now.

So what if you are angry? What difference does it make? It could make a lot of difference. A medical psychiatrist at Ft. Hood went berserk and killed innocent people on a military base. Had someone been aware of his anger and addressed it and cared about this man, those innocent dead just might be alive today.

The key is CARING and knowing how to CARE. And, while that is easy to say, that is obviously not easy to do. How do you provide "care" to a society of people. Socialism is wrong because it wants to treat everyone the same way. Soviets once tried to determine how many potatoes as person needed to eat in a single year. That mindset that tried to replace the free market system did not work.

Human beings are not like cows and sheep. But, socialists want to treat them that way. What works for one steer works for another. Chorale them any way you can. But, don't treat people that way. Otherwise, you may end up people the lives of more innocent lives at risk as more and more people go berserk.

Think Golden Rule. Think "better together." Think "mutual uplift." That is the way to success. A rising tide really does lift up all the boats...when all the boats are in the water.

Lamar Morgan
CDMM - Synergistic Business Marketing
(707)709-8605
Need PR?...Call Lamar!

Private Reply to Lamar Morgan 954-603-7901

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