Ever notice how all these “positive mindset” and “self-help systems” out there claiming they can improve your life ultimately hold you individually responsible for all your problems, and not getting your needs met under capitalism, despite us all having pretty much the same problems?
If we’re all looking inward and drowning in self-loathing – which gets reinforced by this capitalist social order and its toxic culture – it helps obfuscate the systemic faults of capitalism. Especially because we’ve all been conditioned to look down on the poor so much, and to keep up appearances of being anything but poor, even when we’re struggling, in order to “maintain the illusion” that we’re successful.
Look around us at all of the “only positivity,” “manifesting your dreams,” and “self-improvement” hustles that surround us, both in physical space and in the virtual. Do the majority of them actually help the people practicing those, without being at the cost of someone else’s life quality?
Keeping people distracted and divided is vital in order to, as the Wizard of Oz said, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” except in this case, to keep a massive population from recognizing that their suffering is all a result of the system, rather than individual failings on their part.
Maintaining the illusion, by keeping everyone overwhelmed by work, family life, education, rising costs and stagnant wages, has prevented the majority of the US population from questioning why the system requires so much suffering in order to operate, for decades.
Getting USians to rally around a Cold War enemy about whom the government controlled the narrative, while simultaneously getting hundreds of millions of individuals to be self-absorbed, encouraging egocentricity, all in the guise of self-improvement, has helped the capitalist ruling class to maintain and expand the US empire since WW2. Having an enemy about whom the government can lie, with little to no repercussions, has served the US empire well, and conditioned USians to accept enormous military budgets that have resulted in cuts to domestic social programs, for which the people have suffered.
Even after the fall of the USSR, the US has rarely not been involved in war or military actions of some kind. The US military budget expands year after year, while spending on social safety nets and other community programs have been forced into austerity.
By keeping the US populace distracted, it has allowed the capitalist class to continue exploiting workers, and to pursue an atrocious imperialist agenda, without being noticed by enough of the population to experience significant pushback from the people. In fact, many workers have been convinced that they share the same class interests as the capitalist class, and will defend that class over their own working class.
Those who question the system are often treated as traitors by both the system and by fellow workers, when in fact, the workers who defend this system over their fellow workers are the true class traitors.
So just how does the capitalist ruling class in the US maintain this exploitative system? To answer this, we must look at the history of the agency that brought us the myths and propaganda of the Cold War.
Did you know one of the first hires at the CIA was a magician?
According to documents obtained from the C.I.A. today and amplifying interviews, the magician, John Mulholland, who lived on the Upper West Side until his death in 1970, was paid $3,000 in 1953 to write a “manual” on sleight of hand or, as the agency referred to it, “prestidigitation.” The manual was meant to be an aid to agents in surreptitiously administering drugs.
New York Times, August 3, 1977
The magician, John Mulholland, was consulted by the CIA on several occasions, but evidently provided the most assistance in sleight of hand techniques.
The CIA spent decades trying to develop mind-control techniques, even testing mystical methods, but ultimately moved to using drugs, psychological exploitation, and even torture.
Under the terms of his agreement with the agency, Mr. Mulholland was supposed to provide information on techniques by which “solid, liquid or gaseous” substances could be secretly delivered to individuals.NYT, August 3, 1977
Frank Olson was a bacteriologist and biological warfare scientist employed at Fort Detrick in the US Army’s bioweapons laboratory. He was murdered by CIA agents in November of 1953 as part of a coverup in which they had secretly dosed him with LSD. This was part of the covert program MKULTRA, part of the CIA’s ongoing efforts to develop mind control techniques. They attempted to present it as a suicide. But even at the time there were many questions about that likelihood. Finally in 1975, the Rockefeller Commission exposed the CIA’s nonconsensual testing on unknowing subjects during MKULTRA.
In the mid-1990s, Olson’s family had his body exhumed and an autopsy performed. It was determined that he had died from severe blunt force trauma to the head and chest. This, combined with the suspicious behavior of the agents staying at the same hotel, as well as the agent staying in the same room as Olson having a business card for John Mulholland, points to this having been a covered up murder.
Mr. Mulholland’s initials, address and phone number were among the contents of the wallet of Dr. Robert V. Lashbrook, a C.I.A. employee who was escorting Dr. Frank Olson on the night Dr. Olson plunged to his death from a Manhattan hotel room a few days after the agency gave him a dose of LSD without his knowledge.NYT, August 3, 1977
When it became apparent that the covert methods of attempting mind control were not practical, and were likely to be noticed and scrutinized by the general public, the CIA had to look for other methods to achieve their goals.
Norman Vincent Peale’s book The Power Of Positive Thinking had been published the year prior to Olson’s death. The book drew on concepts that predated it, such as positive mental attitude, autosuggestion (a form of self-hypnosis) New Thought, and The Emmanuel Movement.
Peale synthesized these concepts and wrapped them around a Biblical faith-based theme. He became very successful and influential. In fact, the infamous 45th president of the United States, Donald J Trump, was raised going to hear Peale’s sermons at his Manhattan Church with his family. His parents echoed the same teachings in their home. Trump not only cited Peale as a major influence on his own personal philosophy, he considered him his pastor. Norman Vincent Peale officiated the wedding ceremony for Donald and Ivana Trump.
Peale’s book and methods that tied positive thinking to Christian beliefs helped (along with others) spawned a whole industry of magical thinking that has evolved numerous times over the decades, but that remains influential in our culture. A common thread is that these have all served empire by getting the population to look inward, instead of externally at our shared reality, as being the cause of all our collective suffering. Do you believe that this mindset best serves interests of the capitalist class, or the working class?
The “power” of positive thinking, manifestation, auto suggestion, self-hypnosis, etc are all symptoms of relying upon an idealist mindset. Capitalism is rooted in idealism. The exploitation of magical thinking by the capitalist class and of the working class relies upon idealism. How else can a minority of a massive population convince a majority of that population that they should accept exploitation by the minority, in order to make that minority more wealthy?
Using distract and divide tactics – along with idealistic magical thinking – has been very effective for the minority capitalist class to retain control over the majority working class.
If we truly want to help ourselves, we must turn our attention to our communities and take care of one another as a collective, helping to meet one another’s needs outside of the capitalist system. Additionally, we must educate ourselves and organize together to better understand how to dismantle the system that is the source of all of our collective woes.
Envisioning it will not make it happen. We must deal in material reality with collective group actions, and take history into consideration in order to understand the conditions we live in, so that we may better coordinate our efforts to bring an end to the destructive, cruel system of capitalism. Learning our real history also helps us to avoid wasting time investing in methods that have been proven incorrect already.
Magical thinking in the form of positive mental attitude and its like only work if you are already predisposed to be wealthy and successful. This results in the already wealthy relying upon cognitive biases to form beliefs that they bootstrapped their way into success by wishing and thinking it into existence.
It also results in disappointment for many in the working classes as they invest money, time, physical and emotional labor into self-help systems and multi-level marketing schemes that they have been rubed into thinking will significantly and permanently change their lives for the better.
It is vital for the working class to understand that we are in a class war and have been under attack by the capitalist class our entire lives. These positive thinking psyops only benefit those at the very top of the capitalist pyramid. Working class people will benefit more from getting involved in helping to build dual socialist power in their communities then they ever will from the latest distractive offering from the capitalist class.