Monday, April 09, 2007

"Self-help" books... the loser's world

David Seaton's News Links
The real "Secret" of the huge, American self-help industry is this: America's cult of competition, of dividing people from childhood into "winners" and "losers", has created an entire nation of losers. an enormous mass of people who feel terrible about themselves.

To top off the loser's misery by taking their money from them is something that the Winner ethos encourages. After all losers are in the "Atlas Shrugging" world only to serve the Winners.

Probably the most subversive idea that we could spread around today is that life must simply be enjoyed for itself, moment by moment. A human incarnation of any sort is the universe's greatest prize. Just the smell of fresh bread has more life enhancing properties than all the self-help books ever published. DS

Self-Help's Slimy 'Secret'- Washington Post Abstract: It's the publishing phenomenon of the year so far, a small book with a parchment-brown cover engraved with the image of a red wax seal. "The Secret," its title proclaims matter-of-factly, as if the slim volume held the answer to life's deepest mysteries. Which is precisely what it purports to do. Written by an Australian television producer, this latest contribution to the bursting shelves of New Age self-helpiana has come out of nowhere to sell more than 1.3 million copies in the United States alone.(...) Byrne asserts that this secret is a natural law as "precise" as gravity. It was the power, she argues, behind geniuses such as Plato, Newton, Beethoven and Einstein. Of course, none of these gents is alive to vouch for the accuracy of her claims, so Byrne has rallied support from a Who's Who of the self-help industry, including John Gray, author of "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus," and Jack Canfield, who wrote "Chicken Soup for the Soul." Oprah Winfrey had Byrne on her show and raved about "The Secret." They all endorse a book, with its clever "Da Vinci Code"-like cover, that presents the law of attraction as the ultimate shortcut to success and the American dream. Anyone who wants it badly enough can be a millionaire, the president, even an American Idol. What's missing from this recycling of an old egalitarian ideal is the Protestant ethic and Enlightenment beliefs. Hard work, talent, education, even luck go unmentioned. As "The Secret" puts it, all you have to do is "put in your order with the universe." Ask. Believe. Receive. That's the mantra. In the book, investment trainer David Schirmer describes his own experience. He used to receive bills every day. "So I got a bank statement, I whited out the total, and I put a new total in there," he says. "I thought, 'What if I just visualized a bunch of checks coming in the mail'? Within just one month, things started to change. It is amazing; today I just get checks in the mail. I get a few bills, but I get more checks than bills." You'd think an investment expert might be wary of sharing a secret like that. It's all so laughably nutty. And it would be harmless but for the millions buying the book and DVD and the exposure that "The Secret" is getting from the likes of Winfrey and Larry King. And for the danger lurking in its philosophy. (...) In February, Los Angeles Times editorial writer Karin Klein reported that local therapists were seeing "clients who are headed for real trouble, immersing themselves in a dream world in which good things just come." Klein told me in an e-mail that she had heard from readers who were worried about friends who "suddenly start buying things, certain that the money to pay for them will just show up." Still worse is the insidious flip side of Byrne's philosophy: If bad things happen to you, it's all your fault. As surely as your thoughts bring health, wealth and love, they are also responsible for any illness, poverty or misery that comes your way. That isn't just implied, it's spelled out: "The only reason why people do not have what they want is because they are thinking more about what they don't want than what they do want." By this logic, Holocaust victims brought it on themselves, as did those who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina. Come on, New Orleans, get over it! Think positive! For a few weeks, I joked with customers about this nonsense. One evening, I was talking to a regular who said she had come in to buy "The Secret" to "see what the fuss is about." A problem with the book, we agreed, is that it says nothing about old-fashioned luck. We hit on the word at the same time and laughed. But after she left, I took a closer look, and all at once the book's blame-the-victim philosophy didn't seem so funny.(...) I watched Bob Proctor, author of "You Were Born Rich" and one of the "gurus" Byrne quotes most often, being asked on "Nightline" whether the starving children of Darfur had "manifested" -- that is, visualized -- their own misery. In utter seriousness, he replied, "I think the country probably has." The book is not nearly so equivocal. "Imperfect thoughts are the cause of humanity's ills," Byrne asserts, in a stunning sentence that had me pondering how to perfect my thoughts, pronto. Poverty? "The only reason any person does not have enough money is because they are blocking money from coming to them with their thoughts."llness? "You cannot 'catch' anything unless you think you can. . . . You are also inviting illness if you are listening to people talking about their illness." So . . . got any sick friends who need a shoulder to cry on? Tell 'em to bug off! As for Elizabeth Edwards -- how selfish is she? By making people think about her cancer, she's basically giving them the disease. What at first glance looks like the world according to Disney -- wish on a star, and it will all come true -- turns out to be a pretty ugly little secret indeed. READ IT ALL


Anonymous said...

American slang for beginners: These "put yourself into the order of the universe" books have also given rise to the term "spark the law" for smoking marijuana ;)

Anonymous said...

I bought the original self-help book. How to make friends and influence people by Carnegie, just to have it, a little money wasted on a cheesy book, I suppose written with a genuine spirit of 'pull yourself up by the boot-straps' from dire poverty to world domination.

I even read some of it, and wouldnt you know it, people like it when you have manners and remember their name!

RLaing said...

P.T. Barnum was right. Every sixty seconds, another sucker starts its journey down the birth canal...