“Positive Thinking” and the “Positive Thinking Industry”

snake-oil1Positive thinking, negative thinking, what is wrong with just “thinking”?

We are told by the experts, we have to think positive about everything from having cancer (a gift to help us to start looking after our bodies) (Ehrenreich) to loosing our job. (an opportunity to make a fresh start to our lives). Now there may be some scientific evidence or common sense idea that we should try and stay positive to help our recovery from bad news and things. It is not rocket science that we need to cheer up when we are down.

But these days we have positive thinking czars? Government think tanks, plenty of money available to help the Positive Thinking Industry (PTI) in encouraging folk not to get angry because they are loosing their jobs, or government sponsored bank bail outs, but to just stay positive and your time will come. Most of the governments/business positive thinking work is carried out in areas where folk have the least reason to be positive and for good reason. Is the idea that the poor need to feel positive about there own misery, so they can learn to live with it?

Where did all of this come from?

If we apply another adjective “critical” to “thinking” and think about how these terms are used in the UK today. I always used to wonder, years ago when watching footage of unemployed Americans, living in slum conditions, why the conversation on their situation was usually slanted towards the idea that it was their own fault that they had no job, bad housing and living in slums. “I’ve had a few tough breaks, but if I work really hard I can get out of this mess I’m in.” Folk were speaking about doing this within a system that is designed to keep them exactly where they are. “It’s my own fault but I feel very positive about my future” This attitude then, as now, is created by a sophisticated propaganda system not by any critical analysis of conditions and circumstances that justify the speakers pert positive outlook. It is endemic in US culture that they are much more positive than Europeans. This comes from a country with some of the worst poverty in the western world. A study finding that 49.2 per cent of all American children will at some point live in a home that receives food stamps. Along side an administration that spends billions on PR and the PTI.

My first experience of the work of the US PTI was over 20 years ago it is only now as the PTI sweeps the UK. (We are usually about 20-30 years behind our US cousins in adopting west coast fads and indoctrination projects.) The PTI has captured the high moral ground, even among those who should know better. If we notice a flaw, contradiction, cross purpose or make a criticism we are immediately hit over the head by the positive thinking police. We need to learn to work with others who are thinking positive, we are advised, even if it means ignoring what lies behind the “others” positive thinking.

The terms “positive thinking” and “negative thinking” are two sides to the same coin. They are to easily used to negate critical thinking and to avoid unpleasantries in deceptive agendas and ideas. When we hear people talking about learning through and dealing with our problems through “Positive Thinking” alarm bells should start to ring.