Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Positively Apathetic

The other day, the incomparable Keely-Rain posted these tweets, which showed up in my Twitter feed as I was scrolling along killing some time at work while waiting for a meeting to start.  What followed was a severely truncated Twitter discussion on the subject, choked off by our 140 character limit.  This is a subject that has hit home for me a few times, primarily because there have been people in my life who seem to think that if you're just positive about enough things, the world will get better.  I find this way of thinking to be detrimental, in the long run.  

This idea, popularized by books like The Secret and media moguls like Oprah, postulates that if you just think positively about the things that you want in life, the universe will give those things to you.  It's really a consumerist and commercialized way of thinking.  If you want a new house, think positively and the universe will find a way to give you one.  The problem with this line of thought is that, while I'm sure that thinking positively does a lot to improve your mood or keep you focused, it doesn't do a whole lot in terms of actually creating forward momentum for any individual.  In fact, the idea that you can just think positively and good things will happen is the most passive way to participate in your own life.  It's a way of feeling like you're actually doing something without actually doing anything.  For someone like myself, who is decidedly not religious, it's sort of akin to praying.  Praying is feeling like you're doing good and enacting change without actually doing anything more than talking to empty space.  I'm sure if you're faith driven, you do feel like there is a god out there listening and responding to your prayers, but for a cynic like me it's just a way of feeling like something good is being done without standing up and taking action.  

Principles taught in books like The Secret allow for the every day man to think he's going to get exactly what he feels he deserves, and moreover, it takes responsibility off of that individual to take action in their own life.  If you don't get the thing you want, it's because you weren't thinking positively enough, or the universe wasn't able to sense that you wanted it.  It wholly removes the ideas of hard work, fiscal responsibility, and education.  These ideas give people to basically be lazy while still believing that they will get what they want.  It appeals to individuals who are content to behave passively in a world that does not reward passivity.  But when you think about the vast majority of people that these ideas are heralded by, with the exception of Oprah, it's people who are always looking for the easy way out of something.  Magic weight loss plans, get rich quick schemes and the like.  Or people who don't vote because no one "represents their ideals" while at the same time those individuals make zero effort to find and promote a candidate who would represent those ideals.  This is a school of thought housed in the minds of those who believe that by simply existing in this world, they have done enough.  Now the world owes them something in return.  Their charitable contributions to the planet are small, if they exist at all, and yet they still feel somehow entitled to a world that rewards them for their inaction.  In the long run, it's a little sad.

Ideas like this are hard for someone like me, who has always been taught to stand their ground and create change if no one else will.  I can't understand these passive ideals that so many embrace.  In truth, it feels like a very American way of thought.  We've passed by the idea that we should work toward a greater good long ago.  Our capitalist mentality has the majority of the nation looking out for #1, and organizations who work to protect the average person are quickly being broken apart.  The word "union", for example, is a dirty word in most companies, and as the unions have dissolved, wages and benefits have also dwindled away.  We no longer care about each other as long as we are taken care of ourselves.  This leaves a lot of room for these self fulfilling ideals to creep into the edges of society and take root.  Think positive and you get what you want.  Don't worry about working hard for it, or being responsible so that you get it.  Just think about it.  It's as if we're all drinking the kool-aid of Harold Hill's "Think System" like a bunch of country yokels from a stage musical instead of being active, responsible members of society.  The willingness to remain passive in your own life is just a concept that I can't get behind.  What the world needs is people who stand up.  People who take action.  People who, above all, work to create the change they want to see in this world.  Positive thinking doesn't get you anywhere in that arena.  I think there's merit in thinking positively that you will succeed in your efforts, but just sitting around thinking that things will be good eventually is never going to be enough.

It's as if no one remembers reading Dr. Seuss as a child.  The Lorax probably said it best when he said "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It's not."

I think what we need is less positive thought, more caring a whole awful lot.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I see the benefit of positive thinking on a personal level, as in happy, positive people tend to be more successful (as opposed to people who blame others and have a victim mentality and think negatively) but certainly no major changes in this world will happen just with positive thinking. It's like you were saying, let's just pray all our problems away! Well, no, you might have to do some stuff too. (By the way, how awkward that Blogger doesn't have an edit option and I have to delete my entire comment to fix something. Who doesn't have an edit option!?)