Sunday, March 30, 2014

How the Self-Help Industry Hustles America

From AlterNet:

We’re a nation founded on the Protestant work ethic. Our forefathers came to America with the idea that diligent efforts and thrift demonstrated both godliness and virtue — and would result in worldly success.

The self-help industry is the modern secular version of our grounding myth. It’s a $10 billion annual business that sells its services by claiming there is almost no problem — from weight loss to financial struggles — that can’t be overcome with grit, determination and willpower. 

So if you fail in your goal or fall behind: It’s your own fault. 

Self-help now has international appeal. But it still holds greatest sway in the United States where, as Thomas Frank recently noted in Salon, positive thinking is “the great American tradition.”  Post 2008,   Time magazine dubbed CNBC personal finance guru Suze Orman the “Queen of the Crisis” and radio show moneyman Dave Ramsey achieved new heights of popularity by telling Americans they are “stupid” when it comes to handling their money.''

More here.

Probably the biggest capitalist propaganda victory over the decades has been to convince most Americans that it's every man for himself. If you succeed in business, it has nothing to do with the government providing infrastructure, a market, or police, courts, etc., nothing to do with the workers you hire who actually do the work, and on and on. It's all about you. You're the one, the only one. Damn straight "you built that!"

And if you fail, of course, it's all your fault. Bankers ruining the economy, fabulously wealthy campaign donors conscripting politicians from both parties who rig the economy against you, chronic systemic opportunity-destroying poverty into which you might have been born, none of that matters. All your fault. You just didn't work hard enough, didn't go to school, acted like an idiot, yadda yadda. You lazy bums get what you deserve.

You paragons of virtue, however, are rewarded by God with great riches.

Yes, rewarded by GOD: this false point of view is virtually religious in the amount of faith required to believe it. And if this bootstraps "philosophy" is a virtual religion, then its high priests are the wretched motivational speakers. These hucksters, who are worse than drug dealers in that drug dealers actually sell a real-life product, provide circular reasoning, wrapped in a veneer of folksy "wisdom," supported with excitement and good vibes, but not evidence, aimed at convincing hotel conference rooms full of people that they can all be Bill Gates. And then, when the seminar has ended, the audience/cattle pay up for huckster books, huckster CDs, and huckster DVDs. Total suckers, handing over both their money and their minds to con men scum bags.

If Hell exists, I'm certain there is a particularly awful place there for the entire "self-help" industry.