Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich

Temptation is a dangerous thing. Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich could have been the thoughtful and definitive polemic against runaway optimism and positive thinking that America sorely needs today. Yet, by succumbing to the temptation to politicize a malaise that affects both the Left and the Right, Ehrenreich has managed to reduce a potential trigger for a “Realism Revolution” into what too many will dismiss as yet another shrill, leftist screed. It isn’t that. Okay, it is a bit. But it is well worth reading, even if you have to summon up all your patience and reading skill to tease apart the valuable, ideology-neutral thread in the narrative from the noise.

Before You Read the Book

Ehrenreich, who previously wrote the truly thought-provoking liberal-ethnographic look at poverty in America, Nickel and Dimed, is one of the few overtly-political writers I can tolerate long enough to read. She can argue cogently when she wants to, without stooping to the pointless posturing, opponent-bashing and choir-pleasing so typical of the genre. She thinks relatively independently, and does something rather rare among politically-motivated writers: she looks at evidence in the real world and is willing to let ugly facts kill beautiful theories if necessary. She is also capable of breaking from dogma and asserting an individual political view on occasion. I expect a lot of this is due to her scientific training (more on the effect of that later; it isn’t all positive).

Only between a third to half the book is carefully-argued though. For the rest, she defaults to the political positions, posturing and rhetoric you would expect: communities and collectivism over individualism, job security over layoff-logic, and the usual bogey of inflated executive pay magnified into a gigantic club with which to beat on the entire philosophy of capitalism. And of course, an overarching theme of humanism and the unstated assumption that liberals have a monopoly on compassion. In these sections, as you would expect, you get the simplistic reader-infantilizing lectures that so annoy any intelligent listener, when it comes to crudely politicized discourses.

All in all, a challenging read. You’ve been warned. The only reason I am reviewing and recommending it at all is that it is a crucially important subject and a very courageous treatment of a theme likely to unpopular with everyone from TED-talk fans to neo-hippies. religious conservatives, and “life coaches.”  Something with the capacity to offend so many varied people deserves a look. Speaking of TED talks, this video (view it twice; you’ll be thoroughly entertained the first time, and go “wait a minute…” the second time) is pretty much the antithesis of Bright-Sided.

It isn’t all uphill annoyance-suspension reading though. There are truly delightful bits, like the much-deserved skewering of The Secret, by far the most egregiously moronic version of positive-thinking ever invented.  (If you love The Secret, stop reading this blog and go away. Now. I don’t like you. By the law of attraction, you shouldn’t be here anyway. You don’t want me ruining your abundance, do you?)

The central message is this: positive thinking is killing us.  And to a first approximation, she is right. I am itching to throw in a lot of ifs and buts, but I’ll defer that. Basically, she’s right.

The Book

The book is spaghetti-like, so I’ll summarize the basic argument. Over a century and a half, “positive thinking” grew from being a legitimate reaction to the toxic effects of Protestant Ethic Calvinist culture into a monster that has gotten an entire country adopting delusional thinking as religion. Thanks to positive thinking, America is ignoring and shutting out reality with pathological glee, and suspending even basic and reasonable standards of doubt, caution and defensive forethought.

The dubious benefits of “positive thinking” aren’t what they seem.  Positive thinking is a house of cards that falls apart if you push just a little, and a good deal of the book is devoted to the project of nudging the house of cards towards collapse. I wholeheartedly agree with that agenda. That house of cards needs toppling.

The reason it has grown without toppling for so long is debatable. For the leftist Ehrenreich, it is a consequence of those delusions serving the usual villains (greedy, individualist corporate types who want to paper over grim realities with cheery coats of paint). For a rightist with Ehrenreich’s level of intelligence, it wouldn’t be hard to construct an alternative argument blaming the edifice on the sense of entitlement and culture of victimhood that Ehrenreich tries (and fails) to legitimize (the frontispiece line is “To complainers everywhere: Turn up the volume!”).

Fortunately, for those of us whose politics cannot be represented by 1 bit, there are ideology-neutral reasons that could also be blamed. I blame basic human broken-brain psychology that likes to seek out delusions of one variety or another, with “Left” and “Right” being the two most popular overarching ones. The optimism/positive thinking bias didn’t need to fight to thrive in our brains. Our brains are naturally wired for delusions via such phenomena as the confirmation bias.

Whatever the reasons for its existence, let’s take a look at the house of cards itself, and what the book does to it.

Introduction

The book begins with an outline of the main arguments, starting with some key contradictions. For example, even the most basic data don’t support the core ideas of “positive thinking.” America, the most overtly and ardently “positive” among all nations, rank only twenty-third in self-reported happiness studies and far worse in more objective measures that attempt to measure happiness. As she notes even the “dour Finns” do better. Next, she sketches out the reasons why the notion that positive thinking is “obviously” psychologically healthy, is false.

She introduces the book’s philosophy with one of the broader sentiments that I resonate with, that form part of her alternate “realist” philosophy, that advocates neither positive, nor negative delusions, but acceptance of reality:

The truly self-confident, or those who have in some way made their peace with the world and their destiny within it, do not need to expend effort censoring or otherwise controlling their thoughts.

So at least we agree at a very fundamental level.  That line was what made me persevere and finish the book, even though I wanted to stop many times, out of annoyance.

Chapter 1: Smile or Die: The Bright Side of Cancer

The first chapter is a very personal narrative, based on Ehrenreich’s battle with breast cancer, and how it pitted her against an entire healthcare culture that is built on denial. The chapter chronicles how the breast cancer movement, for all the good it does in raising money for cancer research, actually works against patients’ best interests by promoting positive thinking as an element of a cure. In one particularly compelling bit, she talks about how patients are encouraged by support groups to draw pictures of immune cells battling cancer cells. Later, research showed that immune cells don’t do much against cancer. Even if they did, the idea that cheerleading could help seems peculiarly delusional. She makes a compelling case that imposing the heavy burden of constant cheerfulness (how many of us without terminal illnesses can keep that up?) on people already struggling with the pain and horror of cancer treatment is simply inhuman. It should be okay to spend time grieving and being depressed or angry. Apparently it isn’t. Complaining is not allowed (it would kill the buzz of the healthy positive-thinkers).

While I don’t normally condone victim stances, when it comes to cancer, I agree. That’s not a foe you can face cheerily, and you shouldn’t have to, if you don’t want to. You should be allowed negative reactions. When you are going through hell, allowing you to scream if you want to, seems to be the least the rest of us can do.  But the breast cancer movement apparently insists on foisting its pink-tinted brand of cheer and teddy bears on all who are involved in the world of cancer. If this is true — and it seems to be — it doesn’t seem right.

Chapter 2: The Years of Magical Thinking

Next, in Chapter 2, Ehrenreich broadens her agenda to take on the entire positive-thinking speaker movement. Here is where you get the part I like, the somebody-put-that-retarded-Secret-out-of-its-misery bit. But she goes well beyond, taking on woolly-headed amateur physicists who manage to find quantum-mechanical evidence for positive thinking (“in the loony extrapolation favored by positive thinkers, whole humans are also waves or vibrations”), and life coaches who can barely keep their own lives together. Can you say Stuart Smalley?

I found myself privately going, “Halleluejah!” even as I cringed at some of the more unnecessary ad hominems that liberally pepper the writing.

Chapter 3: The Dark Roots of American Optimism

This is easily the best chapter in the book. It is a through and revealing look at how we came to live in an era where positive thinking has become a basic, unquestioned axiom of healthy-mindedness (a phrase coined by William James). She starts with the early origins of positive thinking as a reaction to the excesses of the harsh Protestant Ethic/Spirit of Capitalism Calvinism. This discussion is nuanced, and in places, achieves Max-Weber levels of insight.

You would expect the victims [of Calvinism’s harsh imperatives] to be drawn primarily from the cutting edge of economic dynamism. Industrialists, bankers, prospectors in the Gold Rush of 1848 should have been swooning and taking to their beds. Insteady it was precisely the groups most excluded from the frenzy of nineteenth-century competitiveness that collapsed into invalidism…The largest demographic to suffer from invalidism or neurasthenia was middle-class women…. As one of Mary Baker Eddy’s [an early positive thinking pioneer] biographers writes: “Delicate ill-health, a frailty unsuited to labor, was coming to be considered attractive in the young lady of the 1830s and 1840s…” Here too, under the frills and sickly sentimentality of nineteenth-century feminine culture, we can discern the claw marks of Calivism. The old religion had offered only one balm for the tormented soul, and that was hard labor in the material world [… denied to women]. Take that away and you were left with the morbid introspection [the reference is to Calvinism’s dictate to introspect on sins, not general brooding] that was so conducive to dyspepsia, insomnia, backaches and all the other symptoms of neurasthenia.

The chapter moves from these early origins of the positive thinking movement as a reaction to Calvinist negative introspection, to its legitimization by the likes of Emerson and William James. From there the movement grew to its peak with writers like Norman Vincent Peale and Napolean Hill, growing ever more dangerous in its encouragement of positive-delusional thinking.

Chapter 4: Motivating Business and the Business of Motivation

That provides the segue point into the origins of the more modern and familiar version of positive thinking. The analysis begins by examining how Peale and his cohorts succeeded, by selling a life-supporting delusion to the world of salesmen (and it was mainly salesmen when business motivation got started). The peculiar loneliness and existential burdens of early modern sales proved to be the perfect breeding ground for the entire industry of motivation.

Here the Chapter slips, about halfway through, into mostly incoherent anti-corporate vitriol that seeks to lay all the blame for the ills of positive thinking at the door of corporate greed.  That said, there is a very poignant discussion of how the whole positive-thinking arsenal is deployed to mitigate the unpleasantness surrounding layoffs. This is where Ehrenreich over-reaches. You could argue cogently about the dynamics of greed-vs.-entitlement that led to modern layoff culture as portrayed in Up in The Air. Louis Uchitelle does that in The Disposable American a lot more carefully. That corporations callously use the motivation industry to manage layoffs, is not an argument against the logic of layoffs themselves.  Neither is the fact that CEOs are overpaid. Layoffs have their own intrinsic economic logic. Those are strawman arguments, much like rightist arguments against unions, based on corruption within labor leadership and the effects of strikes on the production of, say, life-saving drugs.

Still, the rest of the argument, and the general indictment of the motivation industry is justified and well-executed. Even if she doesn’t quite make the case she would have liked to: that the industry exists solely to help manage layoffs, and that corporations and CEOs are pure evil.

Chapter 5: God Wants You to Be Rich

This is another chapter that at once made me nod vigorously, while making me cringe at the unnecessary cruelty in the writing. The target this time is the world of feel-good megachurches,  a la the omnipresent television preacher, Joel Osteen. This goes into territory that is completely unfamiliar to me, so it was very thought-provoking. The chapter covers the emergence, through “corporatization,” of the modern megachurch where God and self-abnegating religiosity of the traditional variety take a back seat to general spiritual cheer-leading based on the premise (to use her delicious skewer-language) that God is some sort of concierge sitting around to deliver the bounties of a benevolent universe to you via mail order.

I don’t want to comment too much about this chapter, since I am not religious and I don’t want to offend those of you who are. But the general point she makes is that the old Calvinist God had some things right after all, and that misfortune and suffering are part of what religion is meant to help you face up to and deal with, not help you deny. Just because nobody likes a downer, doesn’t mean religions should succumb to peddling the fluff the devout-in-denial demand of their concierge God’s customer reps. If Marx was right and religion is the opiate of the masses, then modern megachurch positivism is one of the best pieces of evidence.

Chapter 6: Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness

Now comes one of the most troubling parts of the book. In this chapter, Ehrenreich takes on Martin Seligman and his cohorts. This is probably the most flawed chapter of all: Ehrenreich throws out a dozen babies with the bathwater. By this point, the book has become such a slave to the developing momentum of “anything with the adjective ‘positive’ is bad,” that she chooses to tar an entire academic community of presumably intelligent people with the same brush, based on her limited reading of the personality idiosyncracies of one of the field’s leaders.

Yes, it is true. Most of the positive psychology literature leaves the naturally skeptical among us doubtful. And yes, happiness is more complicated than the shoddier writing within the movement would suggest. But there is no denying that the movement has produced valuable insights, such as the strengths model of education and career choices, and the work of Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi on “flow” phenomena. It is also undeniable that in creative work, the best way to produce results is to let self–reinforcing trains of conceptual thought run away with themselves.  Being absorbed in a flow-like state while working out an intricate programming or art problem, is not the same thing as denying the existing of pain and misery on weekends. It is certainly not the same as suggesting, like the horrible woman behind The Secret apparently did, that the people hit by the 2004 tsunami invited disaster with negative thinking.

I don’t think positive psychology as an academic field is any better or worse than any other, in its friendliness to the hegemony of reigning paradigms and groupthink. Yes, there are shyster life coaches selling snake oil, but there are also people who’ve put in the hundreds of clinical practice hours and study, and deserve their membership in the helping professions. Yes, there are “television scientists” and a fringe of hangers-on with dubious credentials, some of who bring discredit to the movement, and others who add value despite being un-credentialed. All par for the course in any field. Including biology. Some fields are just luckier in that they deal with more concrete forms of evidence and models of proof and truth.

Chapter 7: How Positive Thinking Destroyed The Economy

This is the “let’s blame the economic mess on positive thinking” chapter. I don’t have a whole lot to say about this chapter, other than to note that Ehrenreich is mostly right.  It doesn’t seem controversial to assert that delusional positive thinking on the part of  both the non-credit-worthy and the deluded/evil-sociopathic money managers, contributed to the collapse we are living through.

One connection is particularly neat: the idea that the megachurch gospel of “God will give if only you ask” led a lot of people to ignore real danger signals from their financial-life details and take on more debt than they could handle.

The contribution of positive thinking is perhaps not as big as she imagines, but still, it is an intriguing thought that it did contribute significantly.

Chapter 8: Postscript on Post-Positive Thinking

In this last chapter, Ehrenreich redeems herself a little, for her sins in earlier chapters, but not entirely. There are some thoughtful philosophical points made here, and sober reflection is substituted for wild rants. Here is one bit I understand and get, even though I am probably too much of a risk-taker to live by this principle:

Realism — to the point of defensive pessimism — is a prerequisite not only for human survival but all animal species. Watch almost any wild creature for a few moments and you will be impressed, above all, by its vigilance.

My flavor of realism, I guess, is full-speed-ahead-and-damn-the-torpedoes risk-taking. We’re all going to die anyway.

Reading Ehrenreich

Reading somebody who you believe has a fatally-flawed view of the world, yet has spotted interesting truths and should be listened to, is one of the most challenging intellectual exercises imaginable.

Ehrenreich is particularly challenging, because she is so absolutely sure of herself, and so blind to her own biases, while being amazingly perceptive about others’ biases. It isn’t that some of the arguments are confused and incoherent. Every ambitious book has tighter and looser parts, and I am okay with that. What makes reading this book hard are the systematic biases and its perverse lack of imagination.

What are these biases? Some are not actually an outcome of her ideology. Take for instance her assumption that her scientific mindset is the only scientific mindset possible. True, if you are talking about morons reading the Law of Attraction into a pop-science description of quantum mechanics. But while we all agree that the scientific spirit relies on reproducible results and a dialectic that allows all of us to separate matters of experimentally-demonstrated fact, designated collectively as such, from matters of opinion, that’s where consensus on “what science is” ends.

As a microscope-wielding biologist by training, Ehrenreich conflates realism with what I might call “sensorism”  or “naive empiricism” (i.e. the real is only what you can literally see; conceptual thinking has no role).  I have often noticed this bias among those from the more experimental disciplines.  They do not easily get that runaway conceptual thinking is as essential to scientific thought as obsessive microscopy, especially when it comes to synthesis (engineering for instance) or realities hidden too deep below the surface to easily see (in quantum physics for instance), which causes the division of labor between theorists and experimentalists in the first place.

This isn’t delusional positive thinking. It’s called imagination and we need it to think, enjoy life, do science, and survive. Denying cancer isn’t the same thing as suspending disbelief long enough to enjoy Harry Potter. Or suspending apparently solid “empirical facts” long enough to imagine creative what-if scenarios, philosophical counterfactuals and paradigm-shifting ideas in physics. Ehrenreich apparently does not understand imagination, or know how to tell it apart from delusion, so she ends up attacking it alongside delusional “positive thinking.”

This experimental biologist’s eye travels with Ehrenreich beyond biology. She can see the real retina-assaulting suffering of the poor and the laid off. She cannot see the equally real macroeconomic dynamics that legitimize the workings of the creative-destructive economy, and require the conceptual microscopes of mathematical modelers and statisticians. A perfect example of this extrapolation of her personality, interests and intellectual style into a model of behavior for everybody is this passage:

[the positive thinkers say] surely it is better to obsess about one’s chances of success than about the likelihood of hell and damnation, to search one’s inner self for strengths rather than sins? The question is why one should be so inwardly preoccupied at all. Why not reach out to others in love and solidarity or peer into the natural world for some glimmer of understanding? Why retreat into anxious introspection when, as Emerson might have said, there is a vast world outside to explore? Why spend so much time working on onself when there is so much real work to be done.

And there you have it in black and white. Only completely literal-minded engagement of reality (which includes an imagined notion of “community”) counts. “Love and solidarity” are for everybody. There is no room for people who’d rather be alone most of the time, like me (and no, we’re not spending our time either brooding or having wild fantasies).  There is no room for people who can take only a tiny piece of reality as input and work wonders with it in their heads, like Einstein did with the Michaelson-Morely experiment. There is no room for art as a way of seeing. She even implies that “thinking” isn’t real work (even though later she manages to contradict herself and accuses positive thinking for reducing people’s abilities to reflect thoughtfully).

From here to deeply prejudiced ad hominens and hagiographies is a short leap.  This, in my book, is unforgivable. For all their faults, Joel Osteen and his wife do not deserve this:

He is shorter than [his wife] is…heavily gelled black hair has been styled into a definite mullet. She wears a ruffled white blouse with a black vest and slacks that do not quite mesh together at the waist, leaving a distracting white gap.

And this has precisely what relevance to the deconstruction of megachurches?  Even the poor guy’s music is not immune from random swipes that mean nothing: “extremely loud Christian rock devoid of any remotely African-derived beat.”  Apparently, in her book, African influence is necessary for musical tastes to be legitimate.

You could forgive her if she were an equal-opportunity satirist.  She is not. people she agrees with get positive portraits. In looking for an anti-Seligman in psychology, she finds Barbara Held,

“a striking woman with long black hair and a quick sense of humor”

while poor Seligman of course is of course:

“a short, solid, bullet-headed man.”

Held might truly be brilliant, I don’t know. And Seligman I think deserves some of this criticism. That does not justify this sort of writing. From prejudiced use of ad hominems, to assumption of the moral high ground (infuriatingly, she assumes that only liberals — specifically her kind of liberal — can feel compassion, work to improve the environment and donate to charities), there are lots of annoyances. This is not an easy sort of writing to read.

So the short version is: there are deep flaws in the book and Ehrenreich’s thinking in general. Expect to do some work and exercise some restraint and self-discipline to extract value. Do not rush to judge her or the book, as she has rushed to judge you. There is still a major and important idea here, one that deserves attention.  Don’t ignore the message because the messenger is not perfect.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter

Comments

  1. >”leftist” capitalized in first paragraph

    tab closed

  2. Nice.

    “literature leaves the naturally skeptical among us doubtful” – i love that!

    Ehrenreich is an activist. Pretty good at that craft actually. Knowledge work is a different trade. It’s a fair critique that it’s hard getting at the K when the author is practicing A.

  3. I have a folk theory: Thinking unpleasant thoughts is like exercising a muscle. For the untrained person, thinking unpleasant thoughts is something that’s actively painful to do. I’m sure you all know the type of person who would do anything rather than have a frank conversation about death or suffering. But like a muscle, frequently exercising this faculty gradually makes it easier to bear.

    Until modern times, nobody but the upper class was ever really overweight. The structure of society made it so that you got sufficient strenuous labor to keep the pounds off. In the same way, your brain also had sufficient exposure to the viciousness of nature not to ever be allowed to not think unpleasant thoughts.

    Nowadays, society has become comfortable enough that, if you want to, you can become flabby in both mind & body. For most people, the structure of their lives is such that if they want exercise, they have to consciously choose to do it.

    What I’ve also noticed is that different people seem to have different preternatural comfort levels with thinking unpleasant thoughts. One one extreme of the spectrum is people for which it was almost a compulsion to seek to think the most unpleasantest thoughts possible to work that muscle as much as they can. For these people, it’s sometimes hard to imagine that the vast majority of the world doesn’t operate in this fashion.

    tldr: positive thinking is mental junk food that makes you fat & happy. We can only afford to indulge in it because of the spectacular success of modern society.

  4. Xianhang: I agree with your folk theory. Both negative and positive thinking can be addictive, just like exercising a particular muscle can get addictive (the ‘runner’s high’ can lead to addictive behavior in long-time runners for instance).

    Re: your second point about affluence, I’d say it is partially correct. The ‘spectacular success’ has been less about success per se, and more about nicely isolating the people who enjoy the benefits from those who must pay the costs (direct economic as well as social costs/externalities). It used to be slavery/mercantilism and colonialism. Now it is a more basic out-of-sight-out-of-mind impact on hidden third world economies, the poor etc.

    I think where I part ways with Ehrenreich in reacting to these realities is that I don’t think the left-liberal approach to solving these problems will work. Corporations have to be part of the solution, not blackballed as the ‘problem.’ Corporatism is actually value-agnostic, and if you can bring hidden costs into the cash economy, the market will accommodate those costs. After all, industry did move away from slave labor and reorganize around new models once the social costs were put into the equations.

    The junk food analogy and the mental/physical obesity idea… you read my mind. I’ve thought of that exact metaphor as well.

    Ben: I guess I am not always happy about people knowingly playing fast and loose with truths to gain the rhetorical upper hand and influence those who can’t be influenced by honest arguments.

    But I suppose there are people who won’t get it without the ‘activist’ mode of influence. On both sides of the political fence.
    Venkat

  5. Venkat: re: spectacular success, as far as gross economic figures go, it’s hard to find many places on earth that are not the best they’ve ever been in the last 1000 years. Life expectancy, access to calories, infant mortality, likelihood of dying in war, rights of women etc.

    IMO, to claim otherwise is to have a blinkered view of history.

    Now on more qualitative issues like happiness, there’s more room to quibble.

  6. Nice review. I think it is considerably more painful to read something that you largely agree with but the person makes bad arguments for it than to read something that you disagree with. This is why several of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit! shows made me cringe. Coming to the book, I haven’t read it but I also think in the US there is a major component of lack of critical thinking skills that lead people toward the kind of hucksterism that positive thinking gurus espouse. Critical thinking seems to be quite under-emphasized in the American school system and it seems to be getting worse.

    When I was first confronted with the load of crap called multi-level-marketing, my first thought was how does the cash flow work out in the system. Amazingly when I asked the guy about it he said I was engaging in ‘stinking thinking’ and that reduces the likelihood of making things work. I should just have faith that things will work and give them a try. Since my mind doesn’t work that way I suggested he find other victims and we part ways.

  7. But then isn’t there something a bit bloodless about a lack of empathy for the violence done by Bright-Siding practitioners? I don’t know quite what I’m after here… Ehrenreich manifests an angry emotionally charged persona. The desiccated rules of the road for rational discourse demand that such behavior be sanctioned. But you know? In this case it’s not exactly clear to me how else to respond to the vile practice of pretending to help those who are suffering by instructing them to not just shut up but to enjoy it.

  8. Ben — you are actually pointing out quite an irony here (and I am not quite sure what to say about it). Even insisting on rational discourse without polarizing rhetoric is perhaps a mild form of enforcing positive thinking. But since ‘rational’ (by my own possibly irrational definition) is the only way I and a lot of people can process issues, the best we can then do is to take a clinical view of emotional/angry raising of such issues as data. This means dealing with the content of this book as you would the complaining of a baby. It may not be coherent, but it is up to the parent to infer the coherent complaint together and respond appropriately.

    This bothers me. It suggests that pain etc. requires the more fortunate among us to treat the less fortunate like children rather than equal adults. My anti-paternalism instincts scream… I see no closure on this.

    Farhat: re: MLM, Amway is also treated to a skewering in the book :)

    Xianhang: you seem to be describing quality of basic existence/survival conditions. I think this conversation is largely at higher levels of the Maslow pyramid where relative deprivation operates rather than absolute well-being variables. I have some posts cued up that explore what you are bringing up, in greater detail.

  9. Ironic, yes indeed. In other humorous insights we can point out the mnemonic for Bright-Siding is BS.

    But to change the subject a bit. BS is offensive in large part because it used by the more fortunate against the less. The Left has a lot of tools for picking that kind of thing apart. It seems to me the Right has fewer.

  10. This reminds me of this song:
    http://www.last.fm/music/Imogen+Heap/_/Hide+and+Seek

    mainly for the reaction to positive thinking being used against you, but don’t click the link too rigidly focused on this topic because it’s a brilliant song in it’s own right.

  11. bngarden says:

    For reference re what is and why is positive psychology from the academic perspective, this is a useful summary:
    http://www.changeforchildren.co.uk/uploads/positive-psychology-what-and-how.pdf

  12. Great information on a great website! I could do with a few more postings like this
    one.

  13. Why not look at who and what is being demonized next.

    You could write a history of American political demonization and its effects on
    Society and Economics.

    Conservatives have principles, but liberals have values.