Another week, another book. I know my posts haven't been about creativity and healing lately, but rather social and psychological topics. It's kind of hard to ignore those subjects in today's world. And we'll need all the creativity we can muster to get out of this mess, so bear with me!
Anyway, this week's post:
Any of you read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed, a book that spotlights the working poor, people who work long, hard days as maids or waitresses or for Walmart, and yet can’t make a decent living? She took on poverty-wage jobs to see how these people live. It is a real eye opener, leaving you with a sense of compassion and indignation that’s hard to shake.
Her latest book, Bright-sided, explores the positive-thinking movement in America that she claims ruined the economy and set the stage for last year’s financial and real estate collapses. For a while there, it seemed you couldn’t get anywhere in America unless you were a positive thinker. But when you’re only looking on the bright side, she says, you don’t see the danger ahead. You live in a type of denial. (And people who tried to point out problems in the system were typically shunned as whiners and complainers, and even fired. That guy who tried to warn the SEC about Bernie Madoff’s tricks comes to mind.).
What’s more, she says, positive thinking has created a “winner takes all” mentality in America. If we refuse to see social inequality, we don’t have empathy for other people who aren’t doing as well as we are. We think that if they just tried harder, they too could grab the brass ring. But that’s too simplistic…some people just can’t get a break, and most of us do, at one time or another, lead Thoreau’s lives of “quiet desperation.”
Life is suffering. All the religions say it. It’s the human condition.
(As an aside: Buddhists say that we suffer because we want what we don’t have, and we don’t want what we do have. So the key to happiness is accepting right where you are and what you have right now.)
I’m all for Ehrenreich’s call for a return to realism and a sharing of the wealth--and the health insurance. Our finances are already demanding it, and socially, we need to move toward a more encompassing society, one that doesn’t segregate the few who are well-to-do from the many more who are poor and struggling. We’re all in this together.
Check out Ehrenreich’s website at http://www.barbaraehrenreich.com/ and her blog at http://ehrenreich.blogs.com/, where she talks about working in America.