Reflection on the Death of a Society

It literally is the middle of the night, as dark as it will get at this time of year, at this northern latitude, with the skies dotted by low but flighty clouds, lighted by a subdued just-under-the-horizon sun and the last light of the waning moon, making the river flicker slightly, and perhaps I should write about the world and its horrors, but I just can’t.

These horrors to write about are many, and the numbers rise as I sit here, up in northern Sweden, by the keyboard; they are the signs of a society falling apart, a system failing; and the different symptoms and reactions; and most people write and talk about each of those signs, without making the full picture.

Perhaps I’ll brave that picture, one day, but that day is not today – such a picture demands time, and dedication, and recently I lack both; instead I spend my time trying to recharge my batteries. Gearing up for an interesting but hellish fall that is just what I need if I’m to survive until Yule break. So instead of adding to the choir I keep my thoughts in my head, listening to the silence, occasionally broken by the sound of a freight train passing, and thinking I might just as well leave the keyboard alone, to go read Miéville’s Embassytown, which is, this far, very good, and in itself offering food for thought, fitting well with the state of the world.

And while I am sure some people that I know think I should spend my time writing diatribes instead I think my choice is a wise one.

The death of the world as we know it can not be avoided by one more word written or said, because it is already here, hidden among the shadows, deep in the cave, full flank ahead, while people write pamphlets or watch Family Guy or kill each other.

Face that.



Review: Smile or Die, by Barbara Ehrenreich

I got Barbara Ehrenreich‘s Smile or Die (or as it also seems to be titled – Bright-sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America) about a year ago, after having seen it mentioned in the morning paper. Her Nickel and Dimed left a favourable impression on me and I thought that well, why not.

This too turned out a good read. The story starts as she is diagnosed with breast cancer, about ten years ago. She started to search the nets for information, and tried to find some kind of support group. Instead she ended up finding a lot of stuffed Breast Cancer teddy bears and peddlers of the Be Positive And It Will Go Away; will-power as a supplementary immune system.

In the book she uncovers the historical background in 19th century New Thinking, its connections with Depression Era positive thinking gurus and the try to find scientific backing for the idea that just thinking about money makes them come to you (so if you’re poor you’re just not good at focussing your thoughts… right?). She follows with looking at how the forced, delusional, positive thought movement found a footing in a reality where ever more people lost their jobs to down-sizing; the corporate world using it to make the employees left work ever the harder, the individuals using it as a way to make the day seem brighter than it is.

The last part of the book looks at how a faith in positive thought brought the the US economy to the brink of bankruptcy, and summarises with stating that to get truly happy you need to reach out in the real world, to try to change what makes you unhappy; that you need to face and analyse what is wrong before you can make it right – the opposite of the introspective solipsism the positive thinking gurus promote.

I jibes well with my own view – of course, looking at the positive side helps but so do realism; no one gets happier by just trying to will away the truck heading for you on a crash course ;-)