"We do not naturally aspire to any hazy, narcotic Nirvana, where our critical and ironic faculties would be of no use to us," writes Christopher Hitchens. "Imagine a state of endless praise and gratitude and adoration, as the Testaments ceaselessly enjoin us to do, and you have conjured a world of hellish nullity and conformism."
Contrary to Hitchens' reality check, guru-mania has today reached epidemic proportions. If you don't believe me, check out the "self-help" section in any bookstore.
How privileged are we? How self-centered is the American book reader? The world's 587 billionaires are worth $1.9 trillion-a total higher than the gross domestic product of the 170 poorest countries combined-yet our bookshelves are creaking under the weight of innumerable books exhorting us to dwell in denial: if we all simply stayed positive, everything would be fine.
If we were to believe the meditation mafia, that poor misguided Thai girl simply needed a positive attitude. Maybe if she just read Anthony Robbins or went to Madonna's Kabbalah class, she'd also be able to connect with her inner child and develop enough self-esteem to sign a petition to free Tibet on her way to Pilates class in the goddamned West Village.
Let's check the scorecard:
587 billionaires are worth more than 170 countries.
Nearly 4 billion people around the world earn less than $1,500 a year.
As the Indian-born author/activist Arundhati Roy explains: "People from poorer places and poorer countries have to call upon their compassion not to be angry with ordinary people in America."
Native American scholar Ward Churchill takes it further...warning us that the same people Roy refers to "have no obligation-moral, ethical, legal or otherwise-to sit on their thumbs while the opposition here dithers about doing anything to change the system."
Self-help authors are raking in royalties by capitalizing on capitalism's consequences while every two seconds, a child starves to death somewhere on Planet Earth. When all is said and done, I'll take Tupac over Deepak any day of the week.
Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net.