Friday, June 22, 2007

Positive Thinking and the Death of the American Dream

This article was originally published on Febuary 6th, 2007 at

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about positive thinking and a thought responsive universe. I learned about the power of positive thinking way back in the seventies and have practiced it throughout my life. There are some people who swear by it, others who will tell you it’s nothing but bull hockey and still others who make money selling it to those desperately seeking some meaning in their lives. As for me, positive thinking has both worked for and failed in my life. I’m not going to discuss the details of my own personal experiences with positive thinking, but rather the place positive and negative thinking has on the collective consciousness of all human beings.
We can start by examining the “American dream.” Think about what this means for you. Does it mean a nice home in the burbs with an idyllic family, a filled two car garage, a couple of TVs, and all the niceties and baubles life has to offer? Does it mean rampant consumerism and debt up to your eyeballs? Are these the things you dream of? I have my own idea of what the American dream is, or at least what I think it should be. It's about freedom and individual liberty. It's about the freedom to do things without interference from a government entity. It's about the freedom to decide for yourself what you want to do with your life, to keep what you earn, to spend as you see fit, to do whatever you feel so long as you don’t interfere with another’s rights. These dreams make the other dreams happen. These are the dreams this country was founded on and these are the dreams that are rapidly slipping away from us as our government becomes more and more intrusive on our everyday rights and more and more dictatorial in our economic life. The dream of freedom and liberty becomes harder and harder to realize as the government becomes more socialist, some may say even communist, and passes more and more intrusive laws that take freedom and power from the citizen and grant power to the bureaucrats. There are those who don’t seem to mind this. You see, freedom and liberty require that one take responsibility for his own life, and there are some who do not want to take responsibility for themselves. There are those among us who wish everything would be done for them, that the government would take care of them. There are those who think they are entitled to a certain lifestyle, and they are willing to take from each and every tax payer in order to get their entitlement. A free society should not work that way. A free society should not force anyone to do something they don’t want to do. On the other hand, a free society certainly wouldn’t keep people from volunteering their time, money and expertise if they so chose to do so. We can, in a free society, choose to help our fellow man and choose to do any function government currently provides without the threat of force, fines, imprisonment and other punishment hanging over our heads. It is a matter of showing those in power we have the will to do it much as it was in 1776 when our forefathers decided to show the British government they had the will to choose freedom.
Am I going to tell you that we can do this by thinking positive? Hell no. I don’t believe that for a second. Positive thinking in and of itself has the power to do nothing in this world. I found out a long time ago that one can sit around the house all day long thinking positive and nothing positive will happen in his life. You can sit there watching “American Idol” or “Survivor” or sports or whatever other reality TV show is the show du jour all night long and visualize yourself as a millionaire, or with a new job, or lover, or simply living a bit of a better life, and it will never happen. Perhaps on another plane of existence this would work, but not here, baby, not on this material planet we call Earth. Nothing positive will happen no matter how long or hard you think in a positive manner and no matter how clearly you visualize your goals. Positive thinking will only work if it is paired up with positive action. This world we live in is not a thought responsive world, it is an action responsive world. In fact, even positive thought can lead to negative consequences if the actions springing from these thoughts are negative. That’s where the phrase “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” comes from.
Let us consider negative thinking for a moment. Anger, hatred, jealousy, etc. can all be considered negative emotions. These emotions can lead to negative thinking. Negative thinking in and of itself is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. Like positive thinking, negative thinking will do nothing for or against you if it is not acted upon. Again, you can sit on your couch and watch TV all day long thinking about how much you hate someone or something or how much you’d like to destroy something or kill someone and nothing will happen. If, however, you follow these thoughts up with action then bad things may happen, depending on the actions you take. A building ending up destroyed and people dead due to a bomb you planted would be a negative thing. However, if you took that negative thought and did something like write an op/ed piece for some online publication or blog, or take part in some civil disobedience, that could end up being a positive thing. Again, this world is not thought responsive as much as it is action responsive.
Another point some people might not take into account is that even if this existence is a thought responsive one, than it is for everyone. Anyone who is thinking positive very well could be countered by someone thinking negative, or thinking more positive, than that person. For instance, two teams on a football field have eleven players and each player is visualizing the outcome of a given play. The offensive players may be visualizing a reception and the defensive players may be visualizing an interception. Each outcome is a positive result for one team and a negative result for the other. I find it hard to believe that every given play is determined by one or more players on a given team being able to visualize better than the players on the other team. While positive thinking may or may not contribute to the outcome of the play, it is obvious that there are many other factors that contribute to the outcome of the play such as the skill level of the various players, the actions those players take in the course of the play, and even luck. This scenario can play out in most if not all endeavors in life including politics, economics, warfare, etc. In my own life, despite positive thinking and taking positive action, I have been unable to successfully get a book published and marketed to the point where I can make a decent living just writing. In fact, I haven’t been able to even supplement my income with my writing skills. Had I been, then perhaps another equally worthy writer (or even a less worthy one) would have been bumped from their publisher due to my good fortune. Of course, this doesn’t keep me from continuing to envision positive outcomes for my writing skills and I keep trying, I keep submitting, I keep writing. All are positive actions to my positive thinking.
What does any of this have to do with the death of the American dream? It’s simply this, if you believe as I do that the American dream is the dream of freedom and liberty for the individual, or even if you don’t, then it’s not enough to sit back and think positive thoughts and visualize positive scenarios that our rights will be protected by those in power. It’s not enough to sit back and think negative thoughts about what is going on in the world and simply complain about it. The time has come to take action. Speak out in some way. Write a letter to your congressman. Write an opinion article for your paper or a letter to the editor. Show that you are willing to vote for a third party, to kick those that have gotten us to this point out of power. Educate yourself. Use this marvelous technology called the Internet. Take part in a peaceful demonstration. Take part in a PTA or a city counsel meeting on a local level. Run for office. If the American dream is to survive, then Americans need to get up and take part. In order to maintain our freedom we must remain ever vigilant. Positive thinking in and of itself is not enough anymore. We all need to get involved. We all need to contribute. The more of us who take positive action, the more those in power will be pressured to correct their errors. If, however, we all just sit back and think about doing something without actually taking action, then the American dream will die and big brother will be guiding our every thought and action.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A valuable post on positive thinking

Karim - Positive thinking