br />There is an old saying, "The devil comes as a peace maker." The words convey honest instruction warning people to always think and be skeptical. Daily, however, this time-honored advice is challenged by a dominant culture seeking to never encounter the drawbacks of life, but only its benefits.
It can be considered a societal cult: one that never wants to recognize that there is another viewpoint a little less affirming than theirs, and, perhaps, a bit more insightful. They encourage a smile and an accepting attitude towards things that may seem, upon reflection, rather revolting. They discourage healthy analysis and critical thinking, seeking rather that people simply "just accept their lot within a grander scheme of things". Those less interested in this soft form of indoctrination are often singled out for ridicule or shunned. Why? Because they dare challenge the accepted narrative, refusing to simply "get with the program". It is an onerous cult that has entrenched itself deep within the American psyche: "The Cult of Happy".
Recently Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for president: four months ago, but in terms of the national short attention span, an eternity. Along with the announcements and cheerleading were the assurances, yet again, that a politician with something akin to decency was beginning the long push to the White House despite several rather obvious flaws with respect to personal ethics and character. Anyone disagreeing with the, then, growing assumption that Hillary Clinton was anything but a champion of women's rights, black rights, societal fairness, and any other such "noble" pursuit, was met with some rather harsh disagreement despite the preponderance of facts to the contrary.
Often times this odd argument included advocating the "virtue" of a "lesser of two evils" stance. This was generally framed within a covert admonishment demanding that one quiet down and not be so "negative". Thus the truth wasn't as important as the need to enforce brand loyalty and reinforce an unfounded "good feeling" about an individual who, despite his or her corruption, was being generally deified. People wanted to feel good about a false narrative, create a general feeling among the public on a large level of positivity, and any general dissent was treated with contempt rather than being fairly examined for any possible merits. Thankfully, the growing mass pathological insanity building around Hillary Clinton has temporarily quieted with the entrance of Bernie Sanders into the race.
However this exposes an interesting flaw in the American character -- one akin to challenging her more sacred institutions such as Christianity, fairness, individualism, collective action, and many other such vices. This is the idea that one should accept what appears on simply faith alone, for the most part, and not doing so implies that they are simply just seeking to be contrived or artificial on some level. This is a kind of projection often used by people with narcissistic personality disorder. It argues, sometimes placidly, that "I, or we, are not the problem; it is you." How dangerous an idea is that? Imagine the lives that could have been saved had droves of people, caught up in the reprehensible sociopathy of the Nazis, listened objectively to dissenting viewpoints in the 1930s? How much financial ruin might have possibly been avoided had corporate officers at Countrywide Mortgage carefully weighed the arguments that a real-estate bubble had grown and was about to burst?
Yet, despite the abundance of dissent attempting to inject reason into each era's discussion, there was a prevailing mentality that discouraged it. In the 1930s attempting to argue that the German government was embarking on an onerous mass extermination was met by the public, caught up in the propaganda, as an attack against everything good about them, their leader, and themselves. Moreover, expressing any reasonable dissent could get a person killed. Often times a person who stood against the prevailing opinion of the state, and, consequentially an indoctrinated public was demonized as insane whilst perpetrating insanity, a member of a group supposedly dedicated to destroying their society when they, themselves, engaged in the same behaviors they were demonizing, or even, on some level, a deviant despite similar actions not in common knowledge.
As in the case of Countrywide Mortgage economic forecasters who went to the executives of the company in 2006 were unceremoniously fired for attempting to explain that a real-estate bubble had formed and was about to bust. Executives, only wanting to hear an affirmation that the real-estate market was only going to continue growing, were all too quick to discount their own experts, acting in their best interests, as conspiracy theorists, and did so at their own peril. As a result of this general inability to respect the idea of "eventual market scarcity", common among people brought up to only see things in positives, a whole-world financial system nearly plunged into a depression worse than in 1929. Refusing to see, or knowing of, their own insanity, they simply accuse those warning them of their own behaviors.
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At the heart of these examples is yet another trait of narcissistic personality disorder intentionally or unintentionally used by practitioners: a term called 'gaslighting'. Gaslighting is simply when the accuser indicts the accused of the actions, or behaviors, they themselves are guilty of. It is a mindset that is very common on an individual level, but can be transferred to groups regardless of size. As with gaslighting, many other traits of narcissistic personality disorder are used by the 'self-help' gurus to sell, in one form or another, a 'Cult of Happy' to a mass audience.
At the heart of healthy narcissism, which all humans possess, resides a natural selfishness that can also be their undoing at the hands of a covert, or overt, narcissist, parading as a self-help guru, or any such 'messianic' individual. This selfishness can be honed in many different ways to benefit the individual, society, or the individual and society. The need to feel wanted, loved, to identify with a philosophy, individually or within a collective, is a selfish need or want that is a fundamental part of human existence. The guru, knowing this, can exploit an individual, or group of individuals yearning for a similar purpose, in order to sell a particular worldview along with any products associated with his particular propaganda.
The effects of a guru's labor, or particular dogma, becomes even more effective as he or she develops a group of followers. Generally, practitioners of a certain 'faith', for lack of a better word, of self-help generally start an indoctrination process using other tactics, associated with people having narcissistic personality disorder, called 'love bombing' and mirroring. This is a period of intense affirming and validation -- generally in the form of a famous narcissist, Bill Clinton's, expression, "I feel your pain" -- of a person on a subjective basis to the point of raising them to a cult object. This includes selling them on themselves as being exceptional based on little merit other than that they simply exist. This is accomplished, mainly, through flattery direct and indirectly and encouraging people to flatter themselves excessively. The indoctrination continues as the individual is brought into a society of individuals who are likeminded practitioners of the prevailing dogma. Here the object finds an incubating bubble of others willing to, as him or her, focus only on the narrow view that they are all alright. Anything that may point to the contrary is collectively discouraged or ignored, and the focus is only on what the general consensus of the group agrees to be positive. As the indoctrination completes, the initiated find themselves yet another within a larger group devoted to nothing other than self-love and a definition of positivity that is, at best and worst, dubious. At this point the indoctrinated has renounced any real objectivity or honesty, choosing to adopt an attitude being 'happy' and 'positive' is the only way to deal with life. With that mentality comes a self or group admonishment, whenever obvious holes pop up in this mindset, as a result of life, feebly, as "just a case where one simply was negative, or let negativity prevail." The guru's dogma is thus instilled in the object through a contrived expression akin to love, his own natural selfishness, and reinforced by followers leading eventually to the point where the indoctrinated individual becomes a part of a perverse mindset of delusion.
The problem with this kind of thinking is that ultimately any attempts to hold one's self accountable for one's actions are undermined by the selfish pursuit of remaining happy and positive. These 'goals', if they can be called that, are unsustainable and unhealthy as the lack of one being objective, or fair, about one's actions is pushed away in denial. At best a practitioner of the Cult of Happy will accept in terms of personal accountability is that they were "too negative." So if people won't be accountable for their own actions, there is little reason to believe that they will be accountable for the actions they perpetrate against others. Similar to a narcissist they will, through largely their own mental engineering, retreat either to their particular "Cult of Happy Dogma" internally, or to the insulating bubble of like-minded followers who will offer reinforcement similar to narcissistic supply, saying, "There's nothing wrong with you, that person is just negative and you don't need that in your life."
And this mentality transfers into a larger society that is becoming more and more interested in fragmenting with "spheres of opinion". It engenders a sort of acceptable intolerance of one viewpoint over another. Thus one who believes in free markets, moral markets, free people, or moral people treat one another with a form of mean-spirited discounting: nothing "they" say is valid compared to what "I", or "we", have to say. Disagreement or dissent comes a personal challenge, similar to narcissistic injury, only to be met with vile insults and censorship. And as long as there is this kind of disunity, reinforced by the prevailing culture, unity will only as a word be as meaningful an idea as the words of the self-help gurus and similar frauds: "you're special", "be positive", and "smile, life is beautiful." It is only through a reasonable objectivism that a country, like America, can overcome the blatant cultural narcissism on an individual and societal level, prevalent within the "Cult of Happy", and begin a dialog to address some serious ills within it.