Don’t Look on the Bright Side

| 12/4/2009 5:38:02 PM

In These Times Nov. 2009Have you ever been a good sport? Do you ever look on the bright side? Speaking to In These Times about her new book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, Barbara Ehrenreich offers some reasons to think twice about the origins and virtue of optimism. Optimism became a prevailing cultural phenomenon as job security began to change (and in many cases vanish) in the 1980s, she explains. “If you want to have a compliant populace, what could be better than to say that everyone has to think positively and accept that anything that goes wrong in their lives is their own fault because they haven’t had a positive enough attitude?”

Source: In These Times

12/11/2009 12:38:45 AM

What a cynical way to define optimism! Optimism isn't "thinking positively" to attract "good things" into one's life. The optimistic person tends to expect things to turn out well, but that doesn't mean they expect a good outcome simply because they are applying a cheerful attitude. The difference between an pessimist and an optimist is usually that the pessimist sees an obstacle and focuses on all the reasons it is insurmountable. An optimist sees an obstacle and starts looking for ways to get around it. If the "relentless promotion of positive thinking" has undermined America, it is not because optimism is a bad thing. It is, perhaps, because there is (has, and probably always will be) a population of people who are lured in by snake oil salesmen, get-rich quick schemes and other "fast and easy" get-rich-quick schemes. Think yourself rich, visualize your way to financial independence, meditate your troubles away. Gee, trying to accomplish these goals just by thinking positive sure sounds a lot easier than *working* to get them done. But believing that the power of positive thought can replace the hard work needed to succeed isn't optimistic. It's just lazy.

Jeffery Biss
12/8/2009 4:33:17 PM

Optimism also allows people to ignore problems, such as human overpopulation, because we haven't collapsed the systems we are stressing yet. That a catastrophe, regardless of magnitude, hasn't happened or has been avoided provides our optimistic nature with the rationalizations to continue with business as usual. A quick review of our history of financial crises illustrates this well because they have happened repeatedly and we still haven't learned from them because there's always too much money to be made.

12/8/2009 3:03:16 PM

As Eric Idle told us in The Life of Brian, "Always look on the bright side of life" as he was crucified with 2 others... missing messiah by that much. Yes, Barbara, this economy is no Santa Claus. By the way, Cap and Fade, as Jim Hansen of NASA calls it, is a Xmas gift to banks but not to us.

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