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We’ve all had the experience of meeting a New Age fluff guru. He is
the guy who knows how to cure cancer with “positive thinking.” He is the guy
who says that every human tragedy is willed by the victims of that tragedy.
He also subscribes to the belief that we live in a wonderful world, provided
you have the right mental attitude and perform the right visualization
exercises. Affliction, don’t you know, is brought on by the sin of thinking
that something bad might happen.
New Age philosophers have long claimed that our thoughts actually mold
reality. But don’t laugh, this same idea has unconsciously infected today’s
economic and political leaders just as it once infected your neighborhood
Wiccans. “Mind over reality” subjectivism is so pervasive today that we are
now redefining words like “recession” and “overseas threat” because such
words are said to bring about the very things they signify.
That’s right, if you suspect something’s wrong with the economy or
that something’s up with the Russians, then you’re part of the problem. At least,
that’s the New Age lesson of the hour. A negative realization is said to be a
method for projecting (i.e., bringing) real evil into the world.
You want to cure your cancer? You want to prevent a recession? Then
you must visualize health and economic good times. Never admit that bad times
come with the territory (i.e., planet earth). Pretend to your heart’s content
until the glow of happiness engulfs your enlightened little soul.
I often get letters from New Age “masters of karma.” In instance after
instance these gentle folk are filled with the holiness of positive thinking.
After showering me with insulting missives, a recent correspondent offered an
esoteric morsel: “The beliefs you truly hold,” he explained, “the ones you’ve
decided to believe … will cause you to create or attract the experiences
which will verify them.”
The key to life, in this worldview, is to “lighten up” and to think
optimistic thoughts. “When you change your beliefs,” he predicted, “your
experiences will change.”
Nobody should underestimate the power of the mind. We know that
negative thoughts — also called “stress” — can affect our health. But that
doesn’t mean our New Age supermen are more powerful than a locomotive, or can
jump tall buildings in a single bound. As far as I can tell, today’s New Age
gurus are narcissistic mortals living in the bubble of shopping mall
hedonism, protected from the world’s psychopath dictators by an arsenal of
hydrogen bombs. When one compares their absurd preaching to the sand upon
which their comfortable existence is based, it’s hard to suppress a giggle.
The New Age guru doesn’t stop and think of the real foundations of
existence in latter-day America. “The purpose of life in my opinion is the
pursuit of happiness,” wrote my enlightened correspondent. “Spending all of
your time worrying over things that never happen is a waste of this life.”
The real waste of life, however, is happening right now in China’s
so-called “labor reform system.” According to dissident researcher and former
camp inmate Harry Wu, 20 million souls are languishing under unspeakably
brutal conditions in China’s labor camps. And what was their crime? Were
they negative thinkers?
The Chinese Communist Party thought so.
According to New Age theory, those who suffer and die in China’s
reform labor camps are the apparent victims of their own negative feelings
(which have evidently run wild). If these labor camp inmates had only
thought a bit more positively, life would be a bowl of cherries for them.
“Why not try writing something positive, and help change the world in that
way?” asked my New Age correspondent.
My answer is simple.
You don’t solve the world’s problems by ignoring them. The three
monkeys who hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil are not effective
players in the struggle to make a better world. In fact, they are the silent
partners of evil. The dirty little secret of these monkeys is cowardice. So
they concoct a foolproof alibi for deserting the good cause.
Today’s New Age philosophy of positive thinking, however, is far more
corrupt than the cowardice of the deaf, blind and dumb monkeys. This is
because the monkeys do not advertise their cowardice as enlightenment. They
do not claim that their method will change the world for the better. In
contrast to this, our New Age positive thinkers do make such a claim.
My correspondent imagines that I live in some kind of mental hell.
“You are the stupid one,” he wrote. “Why don’t you grow up?”
Apparently, for this disciple of optimism, ignoring serious problems
is the distilled essence of maturity. Because life’s realities are
inconsistent with happiness, we must blot out life’s realities entirely. I
could not resist asking him what planet he was living on. He responded by
quoting Buddha: “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn
for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles,
but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
I hate to pick a fight with Buddha, but living in the present is for
children and animals. It is not a formula for progress or happiness. After
all, nothing positive can be built if we don’t learn from the past or worry
about the future.
In truth, the philosophy of blind optimism, with its irrational
expectations for the future and its idiotic assumption of impending bliss for
all positive thinkers, is a symptom of weakness and effeminacy.
Unfortunately, this weakness and effeminacy now permeates our economy and our
Barton Biggs recently admitted, “It still boggles my imagination that
everybody thinks we can come through the biggest [market speculation] bubble
in the history of the world and certainly the longest boom that the U.S. has
ever had and get out of it with a very, very mild recession.”
No longer are we realists in this country. We are the victims of a
mentality that demands optimistic assessments at every turn. Incredibly, the
disease has even infected people who know better. Recently we were treated to
a lesson in optimistic subjectivism by Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who told
Congress that negative expectations were the chief cause of recessions!
This grotesque economic subjectivism coming from our leading economic
wizard is all the more grotesque when we consider Greenspan’s former status
as an “objectivist.” In an article written decades ago, entitled “Gold and
Economic Freedom,” Greenspan decried the idea that “banks can continue to
loan money indefinitely” and thereby avoid a slump (which is exactly what he
is attempting to do). In describing the causes of the Great Depression,
Greenspan wrote that, “The excess credit which the Fed pumped into the
economy spilled over into the stock market — triggering a fantastic
speculative boom.” The resulting market correction was so severe, noted
Greenspan, “the American economy collapsed.”
Now that Greenspan has repeated the performance of the Fed managers of
the 1920s, he has no recourse but to delay the bursting of the bubble by
warning that market pessimism as the main enemy. Unfortunately, economic
realities don’t go away when you stop taking notice of them.
If I appear to be a pessimist — which I am not — it is only because
I refuse to cashier my brain at the holy altar of market optimism. The Fed
can lower interest rates until they’ve gone down to the devil; but if deflation
and recession are long overdue, this feeble tinkering will not avert
corrections made necessary by a decade of economic irrationality and
But the spell of economic optimism is very powerful. It has even
infected politicians, who now believe there is a trillion dollar budget
surplus in the offing. They even predicate national policy on the existence
of this future windfall. Even more dangerous, this sort of delusional
approach to reality also affects our foreign and military policy. No longer
can we admit to having big bad enemies with large nuclear arsenals. All the
talk in Washington seems to be focused on miserable little opponents like
Iraq and North Korea. When Russian bombers violated Japanese and Norwegian
air space last week, there was only a moment of stunned silence from our
well-foddered, famous wise ones.
It is thought to be sufficient, under our present regime of market
optimism, to base everything on wishful thinking. That is the key to success
which has been unconsciously accepted today. The New Age gurus tell us that
this is the secret to “making our own reality.” And when their grand bubble
finally bursts, it will be a terrible new reality indeed.