Welcome to the seductive, but regrettable world of unquestioned positive thinking, where faith healers, BS slingers, pseudoscientists, and get-rich-quick schemers all peddle the same basic message: think positively, and it’ll all work out. The problem: there’s no room for critical thinking and no call to do the hard work of finding real responses to climate change, injustice, biodiversity loss, and planetary overshoot. Sure, a rosy outlook can be useful in some situations, but it’s no way to address our collective sustainability crisis. On the plus side, some of the gurus out there say some really funny stuff. For episode notes and more information, please visit our website.

Transcript

Jason Bradford

I’m Jason Bradford.

Asher Miller

I’m Asher Miller.

Rob Dietz

And I’m Rob Dietz. Welcome to Crazy Town where the pandemic, the climate crisis, and collapse are just a state of mind.

Melody Travers

This is producer Melody Travers. In this season of Crazy Town, Jason, Asher and Rob are exploring the watershed moments in history that have led humanity into the cascading crises we face in the 21st century. Today’s episode investigates how something simple and useful positive thinking has been contorted into a pseudo religion and profit sucking industry that gets in the way of pursuing good policies. The watershed moment took place in the year 1830. At the time, the estimated carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was 284 parts per million, and the global human population was 1.04 billion.

Asher Miller

Hey Jason and Rob, I wanted to get your advice on something.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. You’ve come to the right place for good advice.

Asher Miller

So, Kirsten and I are thinking about having another kid. Our boys are getting older. My oldest is about to get his driver’s license. We have a lot of energy still. I feel like we have a lot of wisdom to part. I’m really looking forward to being 68 when they graduate high school.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, but wait, wait, can you still do this? I mean, you guys. . . I mean . .

Asher Miller

Oh, you’re thinking about my vasectomy.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, I mean. . .

Asher Miller

Look, I think so. You know, you’ve heard of those rare cases where they get sort of naturally reversed. I think if I think positively enough about it.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, something will push through.

Rob Dietz

I don’t know what you’re on about with this negativity. Like if he thinks about it hard enough, he could probably . . .

Jason Bradford

Thinks about it hard enough ha ha ha ha. That’s a good one buddy.

Rob Dietz

He can shrink the size of his sperm and they could get through that knot that guy tied in his. . .

Jason Bradford

Don’t mention shrinkage.

Asher Miller

We just lost everybody listening. No, I mean, I’ll be honest with you. The only reason I’m even thinking about this is because I’ve got a great name in mind for a child. Girl or boy, it doesn’t really matter to me.

Jason Bradford

Yeah. Girl or boy, okay. I like this.

Asher Miller

Quimby.

Jason Bradford

That’s a great name.

Asher Miller

And Quimby because they will be hugely successful in life.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, like the mayor on The Simpsons. Mayor Quimby. “I am Asher’s child and I was born of a vasectomy.”

Asher Miller

Well actually, the reason we wanted to name this child Quimby is because of the person behind to today’s watershed moment.

Rob Dietz

Mayor Quimby is today’s watershed moment?

Asher Miller

Different Quimby. Okay, so let’s go back in time. Almost 200 years ago. God, time is getting away from us. 1830. 28-year-old Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Jason Bradford

Geez, they don’t make names like they used to.

Rob Dietz

Well, you know, Mayor Quimby’s name on The Simpsons was actually Mayor Joseph Fitzgerald O’Malley Fitzpatrick O’Donnell The Edge Quimby.

Jason Bradford

Are you serious?

Asher Miller

Yeah.

Jason Bradford

That’s awesome.

Asher Miller

Just every season they added an extra name.

Rob Dietz

The Internet tells me all kinds of good things.

Asher Miller

So our buddy Phineas was a clockmaker from Maine. But Phineas was dying of tuberculosis.

Jason Bradford

Ugh. Big deal in those days. It’s coming back.

Asher Miller

Quimby’s doctors are trying to treat him but they’re giving him meds that actually were making him worse.

Jason Bradford

Typical of the time.

Asher Miller

So you know, one day, we don’t know what day exactly it was in 1830. He was desperate. And he got advice from a friend of his who said, you know, he had gone on a long horseback ride when he was sick with something and that healed him. So Quimby was like, I’m gonna do this, but he was too weak to actually get on a horse. So he got in a carriage instead. And he rode all day through Maine.

Jason Bradford

So he’s getting the horse gases.

Asher Miller

Yeah, maybe.

Jason Bradford

The exhaust system of the horse.

Asher Miller

But you know, at the end of the day, he was so exhausted, wasn’t feeling any better, he needed the help of a local farmer to like, turn the carriage around for him. And then something miraculous happened to him. In that moment, and he wrote later, he said, “at the time that the farmer started his horse” – which makes it sound like it’s a fucking car – quote, “I was so weak, I could scarcely lift my whip. I’m sure that whip was disappointed.”

Rob Dietz

Quimby’s like Indiana Jones. He just carries a whip with everything.

Jason Bradford

I’m gonna ask for a whip for my birthday.

Asher Miller

“But excitement took possession of my senses and I drove the horse as fast as he could go uphill and down until I reached home. And when I got to the stable I felt as strong as I ever did.” And it was that experience, that moment in 1830, that led to a new movement called New Thought, or what some people call positive thinking. And that is the watershed moment today because it transformed American society.

Jason Bradford

He probably had a little micro aneurysm or something like that, but anyway.

Asher Miller

Way to ruin it.

Rob Dietz

Or maybe he got some fresh air for a change, or maybe horse farts really do cure tuberculosis.

Asher Miller

So a lot of people don’t know Quimby now, but he wound up devoting his life to the development of a whole set of beliefs that he documented. These were published posthumously after he died. But over the rest of his life, he became a healer for something like 12,000 patients.

Jason Bradford

Oh, gosh.

Asher Miller

Teaching them this sort of new thought, positivity. I’m going to call it mumbo jumbo.

Jason Bradford

Okay, you got to explain this New Thoughtism? What’s the deal with it?

Asher Miller

Sure. There are a couple of key concepts here. You won’t be surprised of the source of this. For him, it was really about disease being a manifestation of negative thoughts and beliefs. In a sense of, not a figment of our imagination, but something that we construct. And I’m just going to quote, something that he wrote in this book that was published after his death, writing in the third person about himself, which by the way, always a warning sign.

Jason Bradford

I love that. Yeah.

Rob Dietz

Is he like a professional athlete in the NBA or something?

Asher Miller

Writing in the third person, here’s a paragraph, that Quimby wrote: “Dr. Quimby asserts and expects to prove that what is called disease is not a cause, but an effect. He says that thoughts are like the shock of a galvanic battery. That they are directed by some wisdom outside of the individual, and that these thoughts are deposited according to the direction and bring about the phenomenon. This phenomenon which he calls an idea, quote, unquote, is named disease, quote, unquote. He says that every idea whether of disease or anything else is a combination of thoughts, and that every person is responsible to himself or his ideas, and must suffer the penalty of them. In treating the sick, Dr. Quimby introduces the subjects of religion, politics and all ideas, the discussion of which agitates society. These he says, contain fear and excite the mind which by a false direction brings about the phenomenon called disease. He takes every patient as he finds him and commences as a teacher with a pupil, destroying his error by correcting every idea that affects his health.

Jason Bradford

That’s pretty long. Can you make a tweet out of that for me please?

Rob Dietz

I think if you want to make a synonym for that, a one word, it’s the guy puts his hand on your head, pushes you and yells, “HEAL!” That’s pretty much it. Right? Did I get that right?

Asher Miller

No, there’s a little bit more to this, which is that what you think, the ideas that you have, form your experience, right? So you have negative ideas, in the sense, disease becomes manifested.

Jason Bradford

I mean, it wasn’t until the late 1850’s with the work of Louis Pasteur that we had the germ theory. So what was this, 1830?

Jason Bradford

Right. So you forgive him?

Jason Bradford

A little bit. But, you know, as soon as all this germ theory comes out, because tuberculosis, for God’s sakes, they figured out what that really was.

Rob Dietz

So Quimby had basically 20 good years is what you’re saying before . . .

Asher Miller

I hate to pop your bubble, but even after Pasteur this stuff took off.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, well, you’re not kidding. You know, there’s a whole bunch of documented quotes that I’m lucky I’ve got in front of me. And I’m gonna put a couple in front of you guys to read. I mean, to me, these are a little better than Quimby’s. Quimby’s is pretty hard to follow. I mean, that’s all over the place. But some of these, well, this is just the positive thinking gurus. We got to go through some of them. So I’m going to read one from Rhonda Byrne, who did the book, “The Secret.” And she says, “just like the law of gravity, the law of attraction never slips up. You don’t see pigs flying because the law of gravity made a mistake and forgot to apply gravity to pigs that day. Likewise, there are no exclusions to the law of attraction. If something came to you, you drew it with prolonged thought. The Law of Attraction is precise.”

Jason Bradford

What the hell is the Law of Attraction. I hate it. I hate it.

Asher Miller

It’s a key concept that comes from Quimby’s stuff. Not only are you bringing disease to you with negative thoughts, you can attract positive results in your life.

Jason Bradford

Oh, I see.

Asher Miller

You know, through positive thinking.

Rob Dietz

Okay, so Jason, I’ve cued one up for you here by Wallace Wattles.

Jason Bradford

Great. You want me to read this Wallace Wattles?

Asher Miller

is that with a T or D?

Rob Dietz

Two T’s. But out of his book, “The Science of Getting Rich” from 1910.

Jason Bradford

That’s a great title. There’s a lot of scientism in all of this. Anyway, okay, I’ll read this quote. Thanks, Rob, for setting this up for me and I had nothing to do with this quote, but now I get to read. Quote, “No one is kept in poverty by a shortness in the supply of riches.”

Asher Miller

Ha. Sorry, go ahead.

Jason Bradford

“There is more than enough for all. Nature is an inexhaustible storehouse of riches. The supply will never run out. Original substance is alive with creative energy. When the supply of building material is exhausted, more will be produced. When the soil is exhausted so that foodstuffs and materials for clothing will no longer grow upon it, it will be renewed, or more soil will be made. When all the gold and silver has been dug from the earth. more will be produced from the farmless.” When the jug of milk runs out in my refrigerator downstairs, it shall be automatically replaced – this is bullshit.

Rob Dietz

I think you went further than Wattles.

Jason Bradford

That’s because it’s nonsensical.

Jason Bradford

There you go. Oh, you’re right. The milk will show up.

Asher Miller

No, no, no, no, it is true. You know about those Amazon buttons, right? You stick that on your fridge, you push the button, and it shows up there.

Rob Dietz

When my book lacks a large passage of bullshit, more bullshit will suddenly appear in my book.

Asher Miller

Alright, well, I gotta throw another one out from Wallace.

Jason Bradford

Oh my god I hate that so much.

Asher Miller

I’m digging Wattles.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, Wattles . . . I’ve got to read this book cover to cover.

Asher Miller

Okay, here’s another one. “It is the desire of God that you should get rich. He wants you to get rich because he can express himself better through you if you have plenty of things to use in giving him expression.”

Rob Dietz

I love that Wattles knows what God wants you to do or be.

Asher Miller

You gotta bling out that ride because that is you telling God you’re giving a gift to God.

Jason Bradford

Take it home, Rob!

Rob Dietz

One more quote because you know, we don’t want to go on too long with this. But here’s one from Norman Vincent Peale, which we’ll get into him more in a bit too. From his book, “The Power of Positive Thinking” in 1952. “It is my conviction that the principles of Christianity, scientifically utilized, can develop an uninterrupted and continuous flow of energy into the human mind and body.” Uninterrupted flow.

Asher Miller

Yeah, it’s interesting all this stuff about energy and material.

Jason Bradford

And scientifically and all. It’s like a blend of sort of religion and scientific materialism. But it’s mish-mashed together in some bizarre way.

Asher Miller

That’s good. So, look, I think we got to be a little careful here. We may have already blown this.

Jason Bradford

If there’s any listeners left.

Asher Miller

It’s so easy to just sit here and ridicule this stuff. And God knows, I would love to do that. That’d be enjoyable. But I think what we should really do is talk about why we’re bringing this up. Why is this a watershed? This, you know, Quimby’s ride, all this stuff? Why is it so important to to why we find ourselves in Crazy Town?

Rob Dietz

Yeah, and let me just say too, it’s okay, if you like one of these books, or you got something out of it, but you know, just realizing the difference between some of this made up stuff, like the gold will reappear once we take it versus okay, there’s a piece of wisdom I could use. So, you know, I’ve read some of these things in the past and I find them you know, you can get some useful things out.

Asher Miller

I guess it’s a question of how literally you take them. Yeah, but I think it’s worth sort of talking about how this New Thoughtism, positive thinking has grown in popularity. How it has spread through different aspects of society over the decades. It really started as Barbara Ehrenreich talks about in her book, she wrote a great book on this topic called “Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America.” And she talked about sort of the early, early decades, early years of  New Thought movement as really being something that spoke to the needs of women in particular. So you know, America at its core has sort of this Calvinistic Puritan heritage right? Jason, you know, this really well.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, I come from a long stock of Puritans. Very proud of it.

Asher Miller

And you know, Calvinism really taught that one spot in heaven was predestined. And your primary task while living was to like get rid of sinful thoughts that are sure sign of damnation, and they’re going to keep you from that.

Jason Bradford

I read “The Scarlet Letter.” Remember that one?

Asher Miller

Oh, yeah. That’s great book.

Jason Bradford

Great book. Yeah, probably banned right now. But anyhow.

Asher Miller

We’ll get there. We’ll get there. Because it talks about sex. Hard work and manual labor was like the only one relief that people had from this oppression, this sort of self-examination. And idleness and pleasure were considered sins, right, in Calvinism. But the Industrial Age kind of took away many of women’s traditional jobs in the home, right? And they’re left with like, nothing to do to pass the time but to torture themselves. And it’s really interesting.

Jason Bradford

What do they mean by that? Torturing themselves?

Asher Miller

Over their sinful idleness. Right, so they’re feeling bad about not working enough, I guess. And there was actually a really interesting phenomenon that sort of spread, and kind of an epidemic that spread across middle class women in this country.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, urban middle class women who are getting the initial products of the industrial age,

Asher Miller

I think they talk about these things as like, the vapors or invalidism, and nervousness, you know, anxiety in women. And doctors, there really was kind of an epidemic of this, and doctors just didn’t know what to do with it. They couldn’t treat it because it really was a psychological, emotional. . .

Rob Dietz

Yeah, like our response to living in a way that you were never meant to live.

Asher Miller

Or it was inconsistent with the values that you grew up in. So, Quimby’s stuff, he actually identifies Calvinism as a source of many of his patients ills. And he convinced them that the universe is actually benevolent. I mean, think about the change there, right? Like instead of saying, basically, you’re sinful…

Jason Bradford

You are preordained to go to hell or heaven.

Asher Miller

So the idea of a kinder and gentler God — it was very appealing to, I guess, particularly middle class women at the time.

Jason Bradford

Okay. I mean, Quimby I haven’t really heard of  before this episode, but . . .

Asher Miller

Well you’ll meet my future child.

Jason Bradford

Oh, yeah, exactly. I can’t wait. I’m manifesting your sperm finding their way through the vast deference that’s been tied off . . .

Asher Miller

The three listeners we had left are now gone.

Rob Dietz

His sperm, you’re teaching them how to pole vault across great distances.

Jason Bradford

They can do it. I’m gonna cheer them on. Anyhow, sorry about that, Kirsten. But anyhow, this really then manifested in religious movements that are sort of derived from Quimby’s thinking. And the earliest most famous one is basically one of these patients of Quimby, who ended up stealing his ideas. And that’s Mary Baker Eddy, who, kind of towards the end of the 19th century founded Christian Science. And for a while there, it was the fastest growing religion in the United States in the early 20th century. And it basically is sort of this rejection of modern medicine. And kind of that, to sum it up, it’s sort of, you can pray your way to health. They subscribe to this radical form of philosophical idealism and believing that reality is purely spiritual and the material world is an illusion. So again, it’s tied back to Quimby’s notion that disease it’s a mental error rather than a physical disorder. Fascinating.

Rob Dietz

Ahh. Well, okay, look, we know that the three of us need to reject our own inner drive to be buttheads here, and to make fun of everything. So let me pull in America’s greatest critical Butthead, Mark Twain.

Jason Bradford

So we can appeal to an authority for rejection of being a butthead, rather than us doing it ourselves. I like that.

Rob Dietz

Right. Yes, right.

Jason Bradford

Although I’m sure Twain’s his books are getting burned.

Rob Dietz

Probably. He’s awesome. Totally hilarious. He wrote a whole book that’s a takedown of Christian Science with the awesome title “Christian Science.”

Jason Bradford

I didn’t know that.

Rob Dietz

I’m going to read you the first third of maybe the best run on sentence of all time that opens the book. So Mark Twain writes, “this last summer when I was on my way back to Vienna, from the appetite cure in the mountains, I fell over a cliff in the Twilight and broke some arms and legs, and one thing or another, and by good luck was found by some peasants who had lost an ass.” So that’s the first third of this sentence. But basically, he sets this up where he falls off a 75 foot cliff. He’s banging off of boulders all the way down. And this peasant gets him to the farmhouse and consults a doctor, but the doctor is into the Quimby, would you say Mary Barker Eddy Christian Science stuff? And basically, he’s complaining that I’m in pain, I’ve got hunger and thirst, and the doctor is like, “Oh, I knew he would have those delusions. We’ve got to change his thinking.”

Jason Bradford

Yeah, because then material doesn’t really exist. It’s all an illusion.

Asher Miller

Those some broken arms and legs.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, not really. They’re not real. They’re not there.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. He goes on to do all kinds of cool stuff. Like he compares the dominance of the new thought movement and sort of like pulling in all these, these different strands to the way Standard Oil took over. . .

Asher Miller

Yeah, I think he’s talking specifically about Christian Science, right? That there are all these strands of New Thought, cropping up left and right. And in some ways, you know, he’s really attacking Christian Science. Specifically, Mary Baker Eddy. And I think was kind of comparing her to Rockefeller in the sense of like, all these wildcatter oil guys can’t figure it out.

Jason Bradford

Consolidation.

Asher Miller

You get this guy to come in and create this whole system to control it all. You know, there are these new spiritual strains or religions that you can point to that emerge from Quimby. But, also really did work its way into evangelical Protestant churches.

Jason Bradford

Remember the Bakers?

Rob Dietz

Oh, yeah, Tammy, Faye, and uhh. . .

Jason Bradford

Jim. They’re still going.

Asher Miller

Well, and so there’s this kind of piece of this positive thinking that people call the prosperity gospel. So the prosperity gospel in the sense is sort of like combining religious belief or belief, in this case, in the Christian God with people’s pursuit of happiness in material wellbeing. And interestingly, there are a lot of like very conservative Protestant leaders. This is later, during the New Deal era, who use this prosperity gospel idea, in opposition to the New Deal. The New Deal was all about, like, let’s provide a floor, a safety net for all of society.

Jason Bradford

Right. What would Jesus do?

Asher Miller

And their thing was basically saying, look, no. Actually, you’re getting in the way of your relationship with God, God wants you to prosper. You need to have a relationship with God, not the state.

Jason Bradford

Let me flesh this out. So the idea here, if I’m following this train of thought, which is difficult to follow, because it’s batshit crazy, is that you should not have any kind of government program to help people who are destitute and hungry. Because if you do that, then they won’t turn to God. If you believe that you can manifest a relief from your destitution and hunger, through a relationship with the Lord, then that will manifest itself. And so this was anti-God because it was trying to feed poor people.

Asher Miller

Right. And the truth of the matter is these guys were anti-government. They were using this as an excuse to – or maybe they saw it as a threat for the role of the church to have state play a role here.

Jason Bradford

Sure. Well, yeah. Because these people aren’t going to donate money to the church as much if that’s not giving them what they want.

Rob Dietz

This stuff drives me crazy. I don’t know how much you guys know about this character, Joel Osteen, down in Texas.

Asher Miller

I tune in every Sunday.

Rob Dietz

He seems to manifest some of this stuff, you know. Like he gets on stage. He’s got that snap on hair. It looks like a lion’s mane. He’s got this weird permanent smile plastered across his face.

Jason Bradford

His wife, too. She’s stunning.

Rob Dietz

His eyes are like half closed as he goes on and say stuff like, “I want you to stand up and let the light shine on your backside. Let light fill your rectal cavity where it can illuminate all the dark spaces. Then a rainbow of fecal matter can flow into your life and bring you all the gifts and joy you deserve. Hallelujah.”

Jason Bradford

Oh my god. I’m with you, brother. I’m with you. Amen.

Rob Dietz

I jest a little. But I mean, this guy. He has the biggest church in the U.S. He literally has the old basketball arena.

Asher Miller

He’s got a fucking stadium.

Rob Dietz

Yes. 16,500 seats.

Asher Miller

And he fills it.

Jason Bradford

What do you mean it’s a basketball arena?

Rob Dietz

He bought the old, I think it was the Houston Rockets basketball arena.

Jason Bradford

They had to of course build a better one, right? More luxury boxes. I’m so glad it’s been put to use.

Asher Miller

But he fucking fills it. He gets 45,000 people going into that church every week.

Rob Dietz

No. 16,000 Well –

Asher Miller

No, they do multiple shows.

Rob Dietz

That I was not aware of. The guy has a net worth above $50 million. He’s doing self help books and Asher, you made me aware of this really special product that he’s got.

Asher Miller

Yeah, so there’s something called the Inspiration Cube. Okay, so you know, we’ve got these devices now. Right? We’ve got like, you could talk to Siri on your phone. You’ve got Alexa from Amazon. Well, so he’s come out with his own thing which is called the inspiration cube. Maybe I’ll just play a little clip from one of his ads.

Jason Bradford

I don’t want to vomit.

Ad Speaker 1

With a simple push of a button, remove those negative thoughts with a new message to inspire your day.

Ad Speaker 2

God is saying to you, you have struggled long enough. Unexpected blessings are coming your way.

Ad Speaker 3

Over 400 of Joel’s greatest inspirations ever assembled. All on this easy to use audio listening cube. It’s all positive. It’s not negative. Our lives have changed completely.

Asher Miller

There you go. It’s all positive. It’s not negative. The thing is called Joel. You can listen to Joel.

Jason Bradford

You can have one named Quimby later.

Rob Dietz

I want those unexpected things coming my way. Come on. I’m getting you one of those next birthday.

Jason Bradford

Well, here’s what I think is delicious scrumptious irony. It’s that, you know, this whole idea that the material world is not real is part of the early New Thoughtism or whatever. And yet the prosperity gospel has kind of somehow morphed this into get rich quick and that’s why this is ridiculous, right? It’s not just about your mind controls, your bodily health, but also your wealth. And so this ends up spilling over into American business culture. And there’s all these, not only these seminars for executives to go to or whatever to be incredibly domineering and positive, but there’s also a lot of get rich shit schemes for the masses.

Rob Dietz

I think that’s quick, not “get rich shit.”

Jason Bradford

Yeah, get rich quick schemes for the masses. In an early version was a book by Bruce Barton. This is in 1925.

Rob Dietz

These guys are all alliterative like Wallace Wattles. Bruce Barton.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, oh my god.

Rob Dietz

That must mean they’re like superheroes. Like Peter Parker, or…

Jason Bradford

That’s right. Yeah, Bruce Barton was every once in a while was Batman, but anyway. So in 1925, this guy wrote a book. He was an advertising executive. He was a future Republican congressman. And he basically portrayed Christ as the prototype of the modern business executive. And here’s a great quote. “He picked up 12 men from the bottom ranks of business and forced them into an organization that conquered the world.” The apostles are reframed. It’s like business executives. It’s like a corporate board. It’s so freakin’ great.

Rob Dietz

It reminds me of another book that came out a little bit later that I’ve actually read. So I think, you know, I may be more into the positive thinking world than you guys are, because I did not read this ironically. This is, of course, Dale Carnegie’s, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Which if you think about a book from 1936, I think that’s still in the public knowledge.

Asher Miller

People know about that.

Jason Bradford

Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of that. What did you find interesting about it?

Rob Dietz

Well, so the main thing that I can remember from it, honestly, is he had this thing: make sure you remember everybody’s birthday. Jot it down and make sure you acknowledge them.

Asher Miller

You don’t have to anymore. Facebook tells you.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, exactly.

Jason Bradford

No, but I think this is true. Like remembering people’s names, of course. And remember their birthday. And this is actually, these are good tricks to help you connect with other people.

Asher Miller

This is why I have no friends and don’t influence anyone.

Jason Bradford

Well, that’s the thing. I think there’s often: you find nuggets of like, well, yeah, this is common sense. This is good.

Rob Dietz

That was my impression of the book, was that it had, you know, okay, here’s some ideas for how to be socially apt in this world that we have. But the whole notion is, do that so that you become more wealthy and more prosperous and whatnot. Don’t do it because you care about the person or like . . . That was the part that I had trouble with. It’s like, you don’t want to be disingenuous when you’re wishing someone a happy birthday. Don’t do it just because Dale Carnegie tells you that’s the way you’re going to become rich.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, that is the irony. It’s not like how to become a nice, reasonable human being that other people care about because you care about them and you build a community and you love and respect and take care of each other. It’s like, how to get rich because you remember people’s birthdays. Well, I mean, I guess when I was a kid growing up, I remember on the little TVs we had, there was this guy who was huge. Tony Robbins. I mean, literally huge.

Jason Bradford

That dude is still around man.

Jason Bradford

And he’s still around. So I think he’s in the same kind of universe as this Dale Carnegie and . . .

Rob Dietz

Yeah, so Tony Robbins, I looked it up, he’s worth $600 million now.

Asher Miller

Oh, man. Take that, Osteen! You’re not thinking positive enough.

Rob Dietz

Right, right. Osteen needs to up his positive thinking. Maybe with the cube, though, he’ll sell enough of those to catch up. But I gotta tell you guys a quick story about – I didn’t get to meet Tony Robbins, but I saw him in action at a conference. I did not go to a Tony Robbins conference. I went to a conference of the Society for Conservation Biology.

Jason Bradford

Was it at the same conference hall?

Rob Dietz

Same conference hall. It was at the Convention Center in San Diego, or something.

Jason Bradford

And neither could fill it so they had to double book.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, they gave half the hall to the conservation biologists and half to the Tony Robbinsists

Jason Bradford

Did you guys meet over coffee?

Asher Miller

I’d love to see happy hour.

Rob Dietz

Where I would mingle with Tony Robbins people was like, you go out for lunch or go out and get a coffee at a coffee shop. And you’d see them, and it was so obvious who the conservation biologists were and who the Tony Robbins people were. Because one of them had that weird Joel Osteen smile plastered on their face all the time. And the other one looked like the world was gonna end. I actually, while I was there, I had this fantasy almost that what if Tony Robbins ran the conference on conservation biology. So instead of talking about extinctions, and this ecosystem is messed up, and we’re having trouble over here, it’s be more like, just walk on some coals and it’ll all be fine.

Asher Miller

Yeah, well, we did a conference. PCI organized a conference in 2020, basically, about navigating the great unraveling. So it would’ve been wonderful to have Tony there to kind of be the keynote speaker for that.

Rob Dietz

Emcee that sucker.

Asher Miller

That would have gone over really well. You know, all this stuff, we talked about the impact kind of within religion, we talked about it in business, and obviously, it’s deeply embedded in sort of the whole industry around self help stuff. It’s been interesting to see Elana, who does a lot of the research for the season, she pulled together some  lists of best sellers. And it seems like there’s a cycle that happens every 20-30 years. There’s like a new big self help book that hits. And as we talked about, there’s some actually, that are still persistent to this day that are selling well even though they’re from decades and decades ago.

Jason Bradford

Dale Carnegie.

Asher Miller

I think some of our listeners might recognize, maybe the probably the most popular one in recent years, and that’s a book called, “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne. Do you guys know about that book? You ever heard of it?

Jason Bradford

I’ve heard of it, but I’ve been afraid to look at closely.

Rob Dietz

Just barely.

Asher Miller

It’s something that was really popularized by Oprah fucking Winfrey. And then she – sorry, but like. . .

Rob Dietz

I didn’t know that was her middle name. Oprah F. Winfrey. Hmm.

Asher Miller

She had the author on maybe more than once, kind of promoting this idea. Basically, the idea is very simple. Wish for it hard enough, and it’ll happen. That’s the secret.

Jason Bradford

When you wish upon a star.

Asher Miller

But actually, what’s interesting, to contrast maybe, is there’s a lot of useful stuff in in this kind of positive thinking, self help, bookie sort of realm, right? Like practical advice, things that are useful for people, but the idea that “Oh, you just kind of wish hard enough, pray hard enough,” you know?

Rob Dietz

Let me add, do you know when that was written by any chance?

Asher Miller

I think it was, I don’t know. 15 years ago.

Rob Dietz

Okay. Perfect. So that means on your 20 year cycle plan, we got five years to write the next one, which then we’re done. We’re in the Joel Osteen, Tony Robbins and whatever Rhonda, Rhonda Byrne. I’m sure she has millions too.

Asher Miller

I think her thing hasn’t even peaked yet. They just made a movie with Katie Holmes, right?

Jason Bradford

Was she Tom Cruise’s?

Asher Miller

Yeah, so she escaped Scientology and now she’s like doing this film that’s like, sort of new thoughtism.

Rob Dietz

That’s a good way. Just go cult to cult and you’ll be fine.

Jason Bradford

Well, you know, we were talking earlier about how it’s sort of libertarian Christian, more anti-government, right wingy sort of stuff. This is more of the prosperity gospel. You’ll find it more in like Southern evangelical circles. But, you know, you can be on the left coast and you’re not going to escape this stuff. New Age circles, the human potential movement, and I had this disturbing experience. I was in this little town called Willits in Northern California, and we had this one movie theater and it was a wonderful place. I loved this movie there. And you could like ask them to play movies, and they would sometimes go get it. I’m not kidding. They would just, “Oh sure, yeah.” So one of the movies I think that the community requested was, “What the Bleep Do We Know?”

Asher Miller

Oh, yeah. I remember that. I saw that.

Rob Dietz

You saw that?

Asher Miller

Yeah.

Jason Bradford

I saw it in the theater, yeah. And I saw it with a bunch of people I knew.

Rob Dietz

I don’t know what the bleep you guys are talking about?

Jason Bradford

Well, it’s kind of about this woman who is a little depressed, a little anxious in life, just not sure what she wants out of life. And the next thing you know, it’s getting into quantum physics and stuff. And I’m watching this at first going, yeah, you know, I think you need to realize that you can make a change, you have power, you know. It sort of starts out slow, and I’m with it. By the end, I’m walking out and I’m going, depression and anxiety are debilitating. It can manifest in all sorts of physical ways. And some positive thinking may really help pull folks out of a funk. And I’m asking my friends this, but my God, can’t we just recognize and accept all that without misrepresenting quantum mechanics? Like why did they have to bring in quantum mechanics? I’m like, what are you talking about? This has nothing to do with quantum mechanics.

Rob Dietz

I can see this being just beyond upsetting for someone with your sensibilities.

Jason Bradford

Oh, yeah, like the first 30 minutes of the movie, I’m with them. And then I’m like, what the hell are they doing?

Rob Dietz

Well, and I bet you in a Crazy Town moment, like you’re sitting there feeling all alone and critical.

Rob Dietz

Right. Everyone’s like, “Ah! – ”

Rob Dietz

“- that totally explained it!”

Asher Miller

Yeah, yeah. And as you said, Jason, you know, I think that film is part of a strain of positive thinking that’s maybe more kind of wellness, New Age, kind of left Left Coast circles. If you want to call it that. And you know, we’ve seen there’s a real history of it with EST.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, the Bay Area ESTs, Earhard Seminars Training, I think is what that stands for.

Asher Miller

Yeah. And, you know, that led to like Landmark Forum. And there are these offerings, I think, that do provide a lot of benefit in some cases to people. It’s just sometimes when you go a little bit too far, and this idea that the physical world is just a manifestation of what we think.

Jason Bradford

Right. You get too disconnected from reality is what happens sometimes.

Rob Dietz

Well, I like the way you state that because you can turn to the world of politics and see that as well. This idea of one political leader actually addressing reality, who turns out to be the loser, and another political leader who is like, “Fuck reality. Let’s look at the cool positive angle on this.” Who’s the winner? And I’m, of course referring to Carter and Reagan.

Jason Bradford

Oh, yeah.

Rob Dietz

So Jimmy Carter is a president was really concerned about energy. And a guy who was a nuclear physicist, knew a thing or two about energy. He ended up giving these just disastrous, I should say, disastrous politically, speeches. One called “The Crisis of Confidence” speech. He had the one where he is wearing the sweater and telling everyone to turn down their thermostats. And, you know, then Reagan comes saying, “There you go again,” you know, with his, “Looking at reality, you loser”. And then he comes up with his, “It’s morning in America,” you know, which really should have been spelled M-O-U-R-N-I-N-G but you know what he was doing.

Jason Bradford

I know. I read the Carter transcripts, and I go, Oh, wow, this guy knew his stuff.

Rob Dietz

He got it. And Reagan, of course, was an actor who was all about make believe. And it just, it made its way into the highest office of our governance.

Asher Miller

And, I mean, you could just look at recent dynamics. Think about Trump.

Rob Dietz

Nope, I don’t want to think about Trump.

Asher Miller

Trump grew up attending Sunday services at the Church of Norman Vincent Peale. Peale wrote a book called, “The Power of Positive Thinking” in the early 50’s. That book spent 186 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Jason Bradford

That’s over three years. I just did the math. Three and a half years.

Asher Miller

And he was spouting this prosperity gospel stuff, all this positive thinking stuff. This is not a side thing for Trump. I mean, he went there for almost 50 years. He married his first wife there at Peale’s church.

Jason Bradford

Ivana, I believe.

Asher Miller

One of those. Of course, in true Trump fashion he had to say that Peale, quote unquote, “thought I was his greatest student of all time.”

Rob Dietz

Well, that’s thinking positively.

Asher Miller

Exactly.

Rob Dietz

Okay, look, we’ve kind of gone through you know, right wing left wing politics, movies, books, all this stuff –

Jason Bradford

– Business.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, business. Who can leave that out? But can we maybe start to distill what are really the impacts here? Like what’s the big deal?

Asher Miller

I think the first thing is just to – and that’s why we spent a little bit talking about the different manifestations of it. It’s to really recognize that this is insidious throughout American society, right? It’s just permeated. And Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, I think really put this succinctly. She said, “Positivity is not so much our condition or our mood, as it is part of our ideology. It’s like, deeply, deeply embedded.

Jason Bradford

I think so. And those were very interesting insights from her because she also made the connection between the prosperity gospel and the need to bolster consumerism. So here’s a great quote from her: “If early capitalism was inhospitable to positive thinking, late capitalism, or consumer capitalism is far more congenial. Depending as it does on the individual’s hunger for more and the firm’s imperative of growth. The consumer culture encourages individuals to want more cars, larger homes, television sets, cell phones, gadgets of all kinds. And positive thinking is ready to hand to tell them that they deserve more and can have it if they really want it and are willing to make the effort to get it.” I think we can think of the time of this. I think we’re talking for her, this is writing I think, about sort of maybe the post Depression America, right? When we’re coming out of the war. And early capitalism was struggling to get people to consume enough. So you have all the theories of Bernays, all the marketing stuff.

Asher Miller

Yeah, created advertising.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, all of the examples we are giving of these writings are sort of at the cusp of that transition between the two.

Asher Miller

Yeah.

Rob Dietz

So if positivity has become inherent in our society, I think there’s a really huge downside for individuals, for each person. And that’s this idea that success or failure is entirely dependent on you and your attitude. And it has nothing to do with society or circumstance. I mean, there’s no doubt that your attitude and the amount of work that you put forth has something to do with what you can achieve, but this positive thinking deal says it’s the only thing. We’ve kind of reviewed a lot of books, but there was a really interesting one by Ralph Waldo, not Emerson, but Ralph Waldo Trine. It came out just before the turn of the century to the 1900’s. So this is in 1897 called, “In tune with the Infinite.”

Jason Bradford

I hate it already.

Rob Dietz

I know, right? But the Amazon description of that book, so it’s still available today says, “This is a must read for all who’d like to strengthen their connection to the infinite mind, in order to enjoy a free flow of abundance, personal blessings, intuitive knowledge, and the strong sense of wellbeing that results from a solid connection.”

Jason Bradford

Well that’s just more and more of the same BS. So why is this book important?

Rob Dietz

Well, I mean, people like Henry Ford became a big fan of it. Tried to incorporate it into the business practices and into how he ran his factories.

Asher Miller

Think about it. We have this – this is a huge schism in society where some people believe that it is the role of the collective the state of society at large to care for those who are disadvantaged, or hungry, or poor, lack education, whatever it is. And you have others who believe that it’s really on the individual. If they’re in a certain condition, it’s not the system that put him there, it’s not the structures of society, it’s not racism, generational poverty, growing inequality issues. It’s the fact that these people don’t believe enough.

Jason Bradford

They don’t understand the Law of Attraction.

Asher Miller

It’s their fucking fault. Think differently, you know. Their circumstances –

Rob Dietz

Can really lead to a callous way of approaching your neighbors.

Jason Bradford

Yeah. I know. Well, I sort of feel this myself, right. Because I guess I’m kind of a Cassandra.

Asher Miller

I call you that all the time..

Jason Bradford

Thank you. I look at the future and I’m very concerned about it. I’m trying to like, raise some alarm about the situation. And you know, I think I’ve gotten better at not doing it in ways that are off putting and come with a lot of emotional baggage. But of course, anytime you say sort of things, it’s kind of a downer. People get a little worried. But it’s like, in this culture, it’s so hard to get any traction with that. Like, can you please deal with this reality I see in front of me. And you’re just kind of brushed aside as some frickin’ Chicken Little or something.

Asher Miller

Or demanded the you have an answer to solve it.

Jason Bradford

Yeah.

Asher Miller

Give us something positive. Tell us what to do, right? If you even dare to bring up a problem.

Jason Bradford

I’d love to tell you what to do, but it’s a collective action problem. And until lmost of us actually recognize the problem, there’s not much you can do as an individual. Which of course goes against this whole notion that individuals have the power to change the frickin’ world.

Rob Dietz

It’s of course brought up in the movie, “Don’t Look Up” where they’re on the morning show, and the morning people are like, “Oh, we gotta talk about the positive stuff.” And he’s like, “We’re all gonna fucking die here soon. You realize that, don’t you?”

Asher Miller

We were talking a little bit earlier about Trump being steeped in this stuff. You know, going to Peale’s church. I mean, some people have written about this and talked about this. But, you know, the early days of the pandemic, I think it’s easy to look back in hindsight and say, “Oh, I should have known this, should have known that.” But Trump was incredibly dismissive. I mean, he was like, “It’ll be gone by this time. It’ll be gone by this time. We’re going to knock this thing out.” And I think it feels really plausible to me to see how being steeped in this sort of positive thinking would lead him in that situation to be like, “La-la-la-la.”

Jason Bradford

So it goes beyond sort of this political calculation of I don’t want it to be recognized, I want the markets to stay up. It’s more like, if I actually deny it’s happening, maybe it will stop happening?

Asher Miller

Yes, I think it’s that. And the consequence is, to some degree, lives lost.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, the consequence is you don’t deal with the problem or the challenge that’s in front of you.

Asher Miller

You can’t get stakes that are higher than that, if you think about the impact of this.

Jason Bradford

And I think that on the interpersonal level. So, you know, you imagine somebody who’s got cancer, let’s say, and it’s at a late stage, but if they’re in a certain culture or subculture, they’re not allowed to have negative thoughts. And the people around them, their friends and family, don’t want to entertain the pain they’re in and don’t want to look at it closely. Because with the idea being like, oh, maybe if they only have positive thoughts they’ll cure themselves. I think there’s a lot of that out there, right? And I think it’s super damaging, because you’re starting to deny your mortality, and deny the ability for you to go through a grief process and come to some sort of state of acceptance and have really difficult but important conversations with your friends and family. So a lot of this just removes some of the most important things to happen in someone’s life, which is going through a death process with grace.

Rob Dietz

Yeah. And taking the meaning out of it, as everyone around you has that Joel Osteen smile plastered all the time. Rather than talking about what’s really there.

Asher Miller

I think we also have to recognize that positive thinking can be really overt or it can be, you know, sort of under the radar. It can absolutely be used as a tool of social and political control. I mean, the sort of extreme example of that is if you look at authoritarian dictatorships, you know, like –

Jason Bradford

Lipstick on a pig kind of thing.

Asher Miller

Like North Korea where people are literally starving, suffering from famine, and they’re being told that they have to sing songs about how it’s the greatest nation in the history of the world. But you have that certainly in U.S. culture. I mean, we just talked about that with Carter. Like you are punished for speaking at all negatively or critically about anything.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, and well look at what it enables you to do, too. You can do something as great as deny climate change, right? I mean, that’s just the Chicken Littles. That’s just the Jason Bradford’s of the world telling you stuff that may not even be true. And it’s just an easy way out. And you know, you can even take it to a level where, you know, let’s say you actually believe the science behind climate change, but positive thinking maybe will protect you and your family from this problem.

Asher Miller

So it actually, if you look at the conversations within the climate science community, you know, when you look at plans that nations have developed, you look at plans that others, academics, researchers have developed, there is a kernel of this positive thinking in every one of those practically. Because look at their reliance to try to get the levels down to try to keep us from going past 1.5 degrees C warming, or two, or whatever it is. There’s this magical solution that comes in, negative emissions technology, some ways of sucking carbon out, do you know what I mean? That are not established. That’s positive thinking. We’re gonna fucking figure this thing out to make this math work.

Jason Bradford

Or the Canadians being like, “Oh, well, you know, the Corn Belt is gonna move up into our latitudes, yay!” And then they’re all sudden they’re like, “Oh, wait a second. Fires everywhere.”

Rob Dietz

And it’s 120 degrees.

Jason Bradford

That’s hot.

Rob Dietz

It’s actually the “popcorn belt” now.

Jason Bradford

It pops on the stalk. Oh, my gosh. Yeah. Well, I also sort of see this lately in this sort of constant rush to get rich quick without even trying, right? The whole notion that you can you can make money by just parking some of your money somewhere that magically explodes and becomes the next big thing. The stock market, you know, people looking for stock tips, etc. Now crypto. Never mind the fundamentals that this is just an entropy sink with not really much social value to back it up. But people are piling on.

Rob Dietz

“Matt Damon.” Can you pull up his crypto currency clip? Come on.

Asher Miller

Yeah, we can do that.

Matt Damon

“The ones who embrace the moment and commit. And in these moments of truth, these men and women, these mere mortals, just like you and me, as they peer over the edge, they calm their minds and steal their nerves. The four simple words that have been whispered by the intrepid since the time of the Romans: fortune favors the brave.”

Asher Miller

Fortune favors those who buy into cryptocurrency before everyone else rushes in and it crashes.

Jason Bradford

Yeah. Fortune favors those who get out before the music stops.

Rob Dietz

Think positively, be brave, take risks, and stick money in something that makes no sense.

Asher Miller

Well, it’s so true. Like you look at, in some ways, actually, venture capital and kind of like, all this sort of new technology shit that goes out there. A lot of that is like, it will work out someday. I mean, the story of Theranos is a fascinating story and a perfect example of that. I mean, this company, you know, with –

Jason Bradford

– the Stanford grad.

Asher Miller

Yeah, she was basically saying, we can create this incredible equipment technology that will allow you to like test blood for all of these things. Like a little pinprick, and we could do it overnight. The fucking technology didn’t work, but she was just selling it and  selling and selling it and getting all this money in the door. And she actually I think, really believed, we’ll figure that out. It’ll get solved.

Rob Dietz

That’s because she hired David Blaine and David Copperfield as her lead research team, you know. You just apply the magic.

Asher Miller

Well, she had people on her staff being like, “This doesn’t work. This doesn’t work.” And she’s like, “Nope, we’re going for it. It’s gonna work out.”

Jason Bradford

Well, let’s summarize this. I think you can go back to the concepts that we’ve talked about of cultural materialism. And you can understand what this whole crazy positive thinking, New Thoughtism, as a natural consequence of all this industrial productivity coming online. And then the push for consumerism. And we’re needing a society that is historically puritanical Christian nation. It’s needing some kind of justification to suddenly just start buying stuff and making their dreams come true. You know, you have this agrarian culture that we were. They had little material wealth to go around, and hedonism and sinful wants were bad. You have to stuff those down, right? But now you have factories churning out cheap junk, and we’re told to embrace our material cravings, and God will provide.

Asher Miller

And there’s a really interesting I think, sort of extreme tension here because we’re told that we need to be good consumers. This puts a veneer on all that. But at the same time, we’ve seen that this is unfulfilling to people. So they become more and more deeply unfulfilled. Because it actually doesn’t fill what people need. They need community connection, meaning, purpose, beauty in life, right? And so the more they chase after that shit and are told think positively and you can get all these riches. And then, they either don’t achieve them and that means that there’s something wrong with them, or they get them and they are unfulfilled. That’s also something wrong with them. Think harder.

Rob Dietz

Okay, Chicken Little. Just send me some money and everything’s gonna be just peachy keen.

Jason Bradford

If you send PCI massive donations, nothing will happen to you.

Rob Dietz

Hey, Jason, Asher, you guys have both been invited to be guests on Rachel Donald’s great podcast, “Planet: Critical.” What do you think of that?

Jason Bradford

Yeah, that was great. Great interview.

Asher Miller

Yeah, sorry, Rob. Are you feeling left out?

Rob Dietz

Well, I was kind of wondering like, you guys are on there, some of the other people that we love, like Nate Hagen has been interviewed. I want to be on “Planet: Critical.”

Asher Miller

You’re the only one who hasn’t written a book between us. Just kidding.

Rob Dietz

I’m going to go in the corner and cry now.

Jason Bradford

Just write another book, Rob.

Rob Dietz

Yeah, maybe that’s what I’ll do. ‘ll start a campaign to get on “Planet: Critical.”

Asher Miller

No, her podcast is great. I think Rachel does a great job. I think a lot of our listeners would appreciate the podcast she does. She’s spoken with a lot of folks that I think people who are definitely steeped and familiar with PCI would be familiar with. David Orr, and you mentioned Nate, and Josh Farley and others.

Jason Bradford

And don’t let our show, and the fact that she interviewed Asher and I take away from the fact that she has a lot of good guests.

Rob Dietz

Good point. Questionable judgment there, Rachel, on picking these two clowns for your show.

Jason Bradford

I was remarkably articulate when she interviewed me. I have no idea. I have no idea how that happened.

Asher Miller

You had a ringer sit in for you, huh?

Jason Bradford

I don’t think it was me speaking. I think I was speaking in tongues. Like, I got the spirit.

Rob Dietz

Okay, good. Well, listeners avoid that episode. But otherwise, go check out “Planet: Critical” with Rachel Donald, a podcast for a world in crisis.

George  Costanza

Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.

Jerry Seinfeld

If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

Asher Miller

Okay, so I guess to start with thinking about doing the opposite here. We just need to acknowledge that if people are actually listening to this podcast, they probably haven’t really fallen deeply into the religion of positive thinking.

Rob Dietz

Great. So we’re not talking to anybody is what you’re saying.

Asher Miller

I know our people. We hear from them, right? Any they’re . . .  I wouldn’t say they’re overly susceptible to that stuff. But I think we have to be careful. And I include the three of us here, to not fall into this trap of seeing everything in the negative light.

Jason Bradford

Oh, interesting.

Rob Dietz

Yeah.

Asher Miller

Because I don’t know that that’s the do the opposite.

Rob Dietz

Well, right. So the the opposite of positive thinking, despite maybe your natural state of affairs, Asher, is negative thinking. Right? It’s actually being realistic. It’s critical thinking. Again, going back to Barbara Ehrenreich, in her book, “Bright-Sided.” She said, the alternative is to try to get outside of ourselves and see things as they are, as uncolored as possible by our own feelings and fantasies. And, you know, we talked about cognitive bias in the past and all these different ways that we can sort of accidentally filter the world in wrong ways. And she’s saying, try to be aware of that and think critically. That’s really what you need to do to counteract some of this, you know, some of this positive thinking that’s been embedded in our culture.

Jason Bradford

I try to say to myself, try to discover or uncover what is not what you want things to be. See the world not as you want it to be, but as it is. And that will give you maybe a stepping stone, a way to realistically assess how you can shift it more towards what you want it to be. I also, you know, doing the opposite, is also not believing that our thoughts and feelings don’t have an impact on our health or wellbeing. They absolutely do. I have plenty of experience and know people with anxiety and depression who manifest these things physically. And part of what you try to do is is kickstart like a process of getting out of those negative ruminations and laying down new tracks in your mind. And when you start to do that and become more grounded in reality, and not spiraling into these negative thoughts, you often get a health benefit. So I think that’s absolutely true.

Asher Miller

Yeah. And I think to both of your points, this is about avoiding any extreme, dogmatic, rigid, singular way of looking at the world, right? Like the problem with positive thinking is not that you’re being positive about stuff, it’s a you’re expecting yourself to only be positive about things and that that will somehow change the result of the world around you. The same thing would be true, but thinking about everything completely negatively, or thinking that your mind doesn’t impact your body or whatever, right.

Rob Dietz

Given that this positive thinking is out there and embedded in the culture. And we went through a ton of examples. What can we tell listeners about how to say challenge that?

Jason Bradford

If you see it, right?

Asher Miller

Yeah, actually that’s something that Barbara Ehrenreich wrote about in her book as well, which is, it is incumbent upon all of us to challenge blind positivity around us. And I would actually even caution us to challenge blind negativity as well. And it’s not doing it by calling people stupid, even though I think people could look at us and be like, look, you guys just spent an hour doing that. Because it’s so tempting. We’re actually not, I would like to say, we’re not mocking the stupidity of the people who are susceptible to these messages. We are mocking the people who take advantage of people’s susceptibility to this stuff. But engaging people to think more critically is not calling them dumb or wrong about stuff. It’s asking them to think critically and actually recognize that we actually practice defensive pessimism in life on a regular basis. So think about it, you’re driving in a car, and hopefully you’re not just assuming everyone’s got their shit together and there’s no chance that anyone’s going to ever come into your lane or run a light, or whatever it is, right? And of course we practice defensive pessimism because we wouldn’t exist anymore as a species if we weren’t careful.

Jason Bradford

Right, right. Don’t let your kids just run out into the street.

Asher Miller

Exactly. As a parent we’re constantly doing that stuff, you know.

Jason Bradford

Vigilance.

Asher Miller

Yeah. And so maybe it’s engaging in conversation with them to say look, thinking critically, exploring possibility, yeah, things might not turn out perfectly if we don’t just hope that they’re going to be okay and believe that they’re gonna be okay. It’s okay to do that. We do that in life in all kinds of small ways. Let’s look at maybe some of the larger issues that we’re facing.

Jason Bradford

Yeah, and have defensive pessimism.

Rob Dietz

Okay, cool, but I’m gonna queue up Matt Damon and have some fortune favoring the bold here. Defensive pessimism.

Asher Miller

I lost you there, didn’t I?

Rob Dietz

We want to give a special thanks to Elana Zuber, our star researcher of the watershed moments through history. Without her work, there’s no way we could have covered such sweeping topics this season.

Asher Miller

Yeah, and we also want to thank our other outstanding volunteers . Anya Steuer provides original artwork for us. And Taylor Antal prepares the transcripts for each episode.

Jason Bradford

And a big, big thank you to our producer Melody Travers who helps us bozos stay professional.

Rob Dietz

And finally, thanks to you, our listeners. If you want to help others find their way to Crazy Town please drop us a five star rating and hit that share button when you hear an episode you like.

Asher Miller

Hey guys, instead of introducing a sponsor for today’s podcast I actually want to talk about the fact that PCI, Post Carbon Institute, is sponsoring today’s episode. Because I was thinking you know, this inspiration cube that we talked about earlier. Joel Osteen’s thing. That’s a friggin’ cash cow.

Jason Bradford

It’s a great idea. Our listeners are gonna want to hear our inspiration.

Asher Miller

Yeah, I think we can rake in some bucks if we create our own cube.

Jason Bradford

Isn’t it called the reality cube?

Asher Miller

We can call it the Crazy Town cube, Reality cube. We gotta work on it.

Jason Bradford

The Crazy Town Reality cube.

Rob Dietz

It’s gonna have awesome messages for anybody that purchases this for $17.99. You know,  I really liked that one . . . I hit the button and it said, “Hey, today is your day. Get out there and build that survival bunker you’ve always wanted.”

Jason Bradford

Oh, that’s great. Get people motivated to take action. Well, one of my favorite says, “After you die-” this is me, I get to narrate this – “After you die, you won’t even know you’re dead. So relax. It’s okay.”

Asher Miller

And mine is, “Yeah, it’s true. Your brother, he’s got a bigger house, you know, nicer car whatever. But he’s an asshole.”

Rob Dietz

365 days of Crazy Town realism.

Jason Bradford

This will change your life.