Well, OK, maybe “cult” is a bit of a strong term for what I really mean. But seriously, the slope is quite the slippery one from Tony Robbins to Jonestown.
Barbara Ehrenreich recently tackled the subject in Bright-Sided: How The Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. Here’s what it boils down to, essentially: you can’t pray or wish your way into or out of absolutely anything. These types of “solutions” found in popular books like The Secret divert attention from people who are actually working to make real change, not to mention that they entirely ignore the realities of oh, I don’t know, entire social structures. Though it’s always a good idea to be open-minded to ideas, it’s also pretty crucial to one’s survival in the world to think critically.
Here are seven indications that maybe, just maybe, you should rethink that $5,000 vision quest sweat lodge retreat:
1) Official, un-proveable yet meaningless claims about the “specialist”/”guru”/asshole guy that’s telling you what to do
I don’t know if you guys are aware, but I’m THE Global Authority on Tampon Insertion. Care to challenge me on it? Try googling the title and see anything even pops up that remotely resembles that title. Am I able to successfully insert a tampon? Yes. Well, BINGO (!), because it looks like I’ve just made myself an official sounding title.
2) Dubiously Legit Titles
Hey, if you’re too lazy to make un-proveable claims about real things, why not make up an entirely false discipline? Ashley and I always refer to an old SNL sketch in which Molly Shannon plays a “Licenced Joyologist” whenever we feel like someone’s blowing hot air up our asses.
3) Wealth = Success = Your Ultimate Objective
If the book/guru/whatever you choose is completely preoccupied with wealth and defines success as such, they’re probably really into stealing your money, or are just really shallow (and uninteresting). Or both. It’s pretty much a lose-lose situation.
4) Vague terminology and unnecessary euphemisms and/or acronyms
Just the phrase “where is the energy flowing?” is super fucking vague — Whose energy? Mine? The general populace? Why is it flowing, as opposed to being invested? If you can’t define something, you’re not actually saying anything, thereby making it pretty easy to refute any claims of the failure of the “philosophy” as a simple misinterpretation.
5) Black and White
Fear and Love, Yes or No, Poop and Pee. Not everything in life is ever this simple or can be broken down into 2 mutually exclusive categories. Well, maybe with the exception of the last thing I listed. If it were that simple, then, really, there would be nothing to think about or solve ever.
6) Why don’t you just tell me the name of feeling you’d like to see?
This is a pretty major one. Lance Armstrong, I think, has been quoted as saying that his testicular cancer was “a gift”. I guess if I had millions of dollars, maybe looking death in the face wouldn’t be as hard, but for the rest of us, it’s kind of an insult to be expected to view a life-threatening disease as a “gift”. Not only should no one should tell you how you should feel about anything, but to expect an impoverished and terminally ill youth from the South Bronx, for example, that her socioeconomic and poor health situation is entirely her fault because she hasn’t been thinking positively enough is pretty fucking repulsive and ludicrous.
7) Blatantly ripping off/re-appropriating aspects of other cultures to create mystique
Hey guys– Chakras! Sweat Lodges! Let’s all take that out of context and create a huge affront to various cultures that have been historically subjugated to Western imperialism and hegemony! Sounds totally legit AND community-serving!