Liberal Book Slams... Positive Thinking

You know that liberalism has passed its melting point when a widely-known lefty activist and author like Barbara Ehrenreich writes a book attacking positive thinking.


In Bright-sided, How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America, Ehrenreich rightly criticizes some of the hype of the positive-thinking movement including motivational speakers like Tony Robbins. But all in all devoting a whole book to trashing positive thinking seems like a weird and counterproductive way to expend time and energy. Unless you are a liberal, of course.


Why not write about the destructive nature of negative thinking, which is infinitely more pervasive and destructive than positive thinking? After all billions living in poverty and misery could not really be said to be entrapped in uplifting thoughts.


Perhaps Ehrenreich, who developed breast cancer in 2001, might seek to link her own disease to her snide, dour and skeptical outlook. But oh no, don’t go there… In discussing the unnecessarily upbeat tone of breast cancer awareness programs in the month of October – which even showed up in a big pink ribbon at the White House – Ehrenreich said “Breast cancer made me nastier.” And she gets laughs from her cynical, deadpan delivery, while her message in fact is deeply troubling. Because there is a much bigger force behind her words because Ehrenreich is a propagandist to the core, not a scholar as she purports to present herself.


It doesn’t sound like Ehrenreich could be much nastier than she already is, which is a classic trait of liberalism – nastiness cloaked in a faux compassion, faux understanding and faux wisdom. She has written for many left-wing publications like The Progressive, Mother Jones and Harper’s magazine. She wrote a completely negative book called Nickel and Dimed, about the struggle of working people in America. Other essays include The Snarling Citizen and Bait and Switch, The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream.


Really cheery, wouldn’t you say? And certainly these issues should be addressed. But to never look on the bright side and never count your blessings is a disturbing phenomenon that is common to people like Ehrenreich who  told her C-Span audience that her book is “going after an ideology”. But being a prominent figure in the far-left organization Democratic Socialists of America, could her real target be simply American can-do optimism and capitalism which requires self-investment and confidence, and which has built the most powerful nation on earth, a nation she certainly disdains?  


Does Ehrenreich ever write anything positive? Apparently not. And this is classic liberalism – negative, cynical, defeatist. Don’t look up. Don’t be positive because that is for uncaring Republican achievers who will step on you on their march to the top. You are doomed. The world is rotten. And the government is here to fix it. Here is your check.


Ehrenreich traces the roots of the positive thinking movement to a reaction to gloomy Calvinism. She assigns much of the blame for the explosion in positive thinking to its advocacy in corporate America, springing from roots in 20th century figures like Norman Vincent Peale. Cynically she says that positive thinking is corporate America preparing workers for downsizing and says that those who ride around with Life Is Good bumper stickers are deceiving themselves, and that most of our world is better described by a man with a T-shirt that said that Life Is Crap.


This drew laughter from her probably upper-income, generally liberal audience during a C-Span airing at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC. (Two questioners in a small audience were psychologists.) Yet what is so funny about the whole idea that “life is crap” or that someone would profess it on a T-shirt?


It sounds rather sad, does it not? No positive thinking there. And you would not expect the wearer to achieve much, would you? Common sense tells you that.


Ehrenreich’s prescription for all the woes she relentlessly chronicles is good jobs and better wages. Yet her far-left ideology with crushing taxes and regulations, rampant lawsuits, greedy unions and rabid environmentalism has corroded economic growth, pushing many jobs abroad. So as Ehrenreich describes for profit our woes in excruciating detail, her political ideology only makes things worse.


She says that positive thinking does not help sick people, which is false. Studies have shown – and common sense would tell you – about a higher recovery rate among people who think they are going to recover because disease is both physical and mental. For Ehrenreich to dismiss the mental aspect of disease is simply deceitful. Is not the person who can envision success more likely to achieve it than the guy in the Life Is Crap T-shirt? Wouldn’t a positive, achieving person seek to distance himself from the guy in the T-shirt? And would not medical wellness seek to distance itself from a negative mindset?


Ehrenreich goes on to ridicule figures like televangelist Joel Osteen, who she says is not really a Christian preacher but simply an advocate of positive thinking. Yet most people who wish to improve themselves would rather listen to Osteen than to Ehrenreich. Because a positive message is more uplifting than a negative one. Period. So why not listen?


Ehrenreich says that the opposite of positive thinking is not negative thinking but “realism”. And this is dishonest. Because “realism” actually is a trait of American conservatism, along with positive thinking and hard work, all of which Ehrenreich certainly scorns. The dangerous socialist ideology on which her thinking is based rejects “realism” in favor of “idealism” which is the form of positive thinking which is the real threat to human progress. All those “idealist” regimes where everyone is promised milk and honey end up in death camps and starvation.


And the liberal left engages in another false ritual of positive thinking that conservatives oppose and that is in “self-esteem” programs in public schools, particularly among girls and minorities. This is another corruption of positive thinking because it simply implants a false and unearned conceit which only can drop away like a trap door later in life.


Who would pay to read an Ehrenreich book or to be captured by a negative force like she is?


Answer: Other well-off, well-educated liberals, that is who. New York elite intellectuals who see government action as the key to everything. And that they would be her audience is a real indication of where Barbara Ehrenreich is really going with her ideas, someplace that clear-thinking individuals know we should never think of heading.Being as depressing as it is, Ehrenreich’s work probably is rarely read by people in bad straits, but more by the brie-and-chablis crowd on the left – the overpaid college professors and lawyers and


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