Jafar's Reviews > Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World

Smile or Die by Barbara Ehrenreich
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Mar 14, 2010

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I remember reading this line in Paul Coelho’s The Alchemist: "When you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires so that your wish comes true." I didn’t think about it too much. The book was full of such ridiculous but touchy-feely-warm-and-fluffy pronouncements. But then I kept seeing this quote everywhere. And Coelho is not the only one going around saying such vacuous platitudes. The reason why so many people find such patently-false absurdities charming or even inspiring has to do with the cuteness factor. People don’t really believe this stuff. They just read it and feel nice and warm about it, and then go about their life. The reason that I don’t get the same nice and warm feeling about it must be my dry overanalyzing of everything and my particular brain chemistry. That’s what I’ve been telling myself.

It turns out I was completely wrong and didn’t know about it. It’s not fluff. It’s much, much more than that. There’s this thing called the Law of Attraction which basically says that if you want something, you just put a lot of time and energy into visualizing it, and it should come to you. The universe is just a mail-order store. There’s a long history behind this drivel, and it has penetrated all corners of modern life, especially in the U.S., from New Age to mega-church Christianity to pop culture to corporate culture. It has become big business with coaches and gurus and motivational speakers busy milking the masses who apparently think that this is not the same as the old-fashioned voodoo magic. The ramifications of this trend of thought are so wide and deep that society in general, including those who haven’t fallen for this law-of-attraction gimmick, is in the grips of something called positive thinking.

This is a great book. Ehrenreich starts off with her personal account of her fight with breast cancer and finding herself smothered with pink ribbons and teddy bears. She then moves to discussing the roots of American optimism, and then all the interesting analysis on the tyrannical hold of “positive thinking” on the American way of life today. If Deepak and Coelho are your heroes, you need to read (and get annoyed by) this book.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Susanne Trimmer LOL, dry overanalyzing and my particular brain chemistry. Yup. I loved Bright-Sided. I'm tired of being gagged with a happy face sticker.

message 2: by Marian (new) - added it

Marian As a direct descendant of U.S. slavery (and British slavery and human trafficking before that), I have a particular and strong interest in this book.

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