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Punitive Happiness

By Al Schumann on Saturday December 4, 2010 01:33 AM

The coerced affect industry is possibly the most parasitic of all the competitors in the corporate bloodsucking sector. It's definitely the most pathological. The neoliberal Taylorists merely insist on frantic step-up, fatuous metrics and worker burnout by age forty. The imperial crackpots can settle for shredding children with cluster bombs. The nightstick fetishists ask for no more than few canisters of pepper spray and handcuffed victims. The banksters are content with a world economy run for their benefit. The happiness people want you to like it.

The fulsome giddiness and unapologetic emotional blackmail of their pitch would be disturbing no matter what was getting pushed. In the context of the world as it actually exists, it's much worse than disturbing. The insistence on shit-eating grins is as close to violence as one can get without actively assaulting another human being.

Comments (25)

Can you even trust a person who deliberately pursues positivity, or cultivates a psycho-spiritual sense of "gratitude"?

Al Schumann:

It would be a rare person that tried to pursue interpersonal integrity in addition to maintaining positivity or that warped understanding of gratitude. They're not compatible. It's an ultimately unmanageable pursuit. Integrity has to give way for the others.

The cathexis itself is crippling and solipsistic. Negative reactions to ordinary vicissitudes, never mind the crimes of the state, are healthy responses. They're necessary components of empathy. Undermining that is obviously the point. A gaggle of giddy solipsists will never organize to address a wrong.


not for the "intellectually lethargic."
that counts me out

mind slugs and meme sloths like me
i guess
are ungrateful ass wipes

i certainly feel rooked by existence


follow in the shadow of a grateful goon ???

why not ..u can always back bite


A wise man once said that the "most effective consolation in every misfortune and every affliction is to observe others who are more unfortunate than we." However, he neglected to add that it is best if we go out and ensure that there will be more unfortunate people than ourselves, which is the true genius of our contemporaries.

Goddammit, Schumann, you owe me for a new keyboard.

Like the curious bastard that I am, I actually clicked on that Futurity link, and... eeeeewwwwwwww. Jeezus, did I get slimed, but good.

Sure, I guess I've got it OK compared to your average Mexican, your average Iraqi, your average Palestinian, and yeah, I suppose I can be glad I've got a roof over my head, and that I'm not starving, and that I've got a wife and family and friends who care about me -- but when I think of how my basic personal liberty and dignity are pretty much destroyed, and how I'm being reduced to serfdom, and how my Social Security savings are about to be looted, and how people like me are being marginalized, mocked, and ridiculed by the public media and the political party that purports to work in my interests, and how the entire society I live in is being sucked into a maw of mass psychosis and sociopathy, then fuck, no, I don't have jack shit to be grateful for, and the admonishments of bliss ninnies like the Futurity crew just piss me off even more. That this bunch of doorknobs would insist that my anger at being beaten down by Capital, the State, and the media -- an entirely natural reaction -- means that there's something wrong with me, and would insist that I should be groundlessly and mindlessly happy in spite of that is indescribably offensive.

Remember that one scene in THX 1138, where THX goes into the little confessional booth where the image of the bearded guru comes up on the screen and the deep, gently-modulated recorded voice comes on with all the programmed responses? THX goes in and sits down and starts confessing his sins -- he's not doing his job as well as he should, his mate is acting weird, he's having forbidden thoughts, etc. -- and this whole time, he's not really feeling all that well due to withdrawal because he's trying to get off the drugs he's full of to keep him docile (and he's committing a criminal offense by getting off his drugs, of course). About a minute or so into it, he can't keep it together anymore, collapses onto the floor of the booth and starts retching and heaving and puking all over the place, while the whole time, the robotic guru's voice continues droning on, be grateful you have a task to perform, thou art a creation of the Divine, created by the Masses, for the Masses, consume and be happy...

But, aaaa-aaanyway, long story short, that's pretty much what that steaming heap of blather at Futurity.org boils down to for me. Be grateful you have a task to perform. Consume, and Be Happy.

Oh, and btw... in the "Gratitude" article, I checked out one of the links, to a related dime-a-dozen self-help tome cited in the article:

Did you know that there is a crucial component of happiness that is often overlooked? In Thanks!, Robert Emmons draws on the first major study of the subject of gratitude, of "wanting what we have," and shows that a systematic cultivation of this underexamined emotion can measurably change people's lives. Readers will discover how

* People who regularly practice grateful thinking can increase their "set-point" for happiness by as much as 25 percent.

* Such increases can be sustained over a period of months, challenging the previously held notion that our "set-point" is frozen at birth.

* Keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks can result in better sleep and more energy.

Emmons also reaches beyond science to bolster the case for gratitude by weaving in the writings of philosophers, novelists, and theologians.

Thanks! inspires readers to embrace gratitude and all the benefits it can bring into their lives.

WTFF? Keep a "gratitude journal"? Eeeewwww. Double eeeeeeewwwwww.

And if that load of mindless feel-good glop from Futurity isn't enough, cast yer peepers at this:

Homeopathic talks ease arthritis pain
U. SOUTHAMPTON (UK) — When combined with conventional treatment, homeopathy can significantly reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.

But a recent study published in the journal Rheumatology, finds that the improvement was due to homeopathy’s consultation process and not its remedies.

“Although previous trials have shown homeopathy may help patients with rheumatoid arthritis, this is the first time that we have scientific evidence that these benefits are specifically due to its unique consultation process,” comments Sarah Brien, a senior research fellow in complementary medicine at the University of Southampton and the study’s lead author...

Triple eeeeewwwww.

Still, at least one commenter -- an actual MD -- in the comments thread seems to have a grip on reality:
How did you spin this story into a positive look at homeopathy? The study abstract specifically says that homeopathic remedies do not help with arthritis, and yet your first line, “homeopathy can significantly reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis”, is false since it implies to readers that the medicines work, when all that was at play was the placebo effect from longer consults. And it’s always insulting to allopathic doctors to hear the tired refrain “conventional doctors tend to treat the illness”. Homeopathy remains a scientifically implausible medicine, and this study is far from a validation of homeopathy; it’s a validation of tender loving care and the subsequent placebo effect, which could be gained from any type of caregiver.

Dear Gratitude Journal, that customer today was just dreamy! He said thank you twice. And smiled! And I smiled back! Swoon!



State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson insisted the warning wasn’t an official Department directive but added that making public comments or posting links to WikiLeaks content wasn’t “a good move for any US citizen.”

This made me happy!


Kind of makes me appeciate the grimmer aspects of Catholicism, and/or the Old Testament for that matter.

Al Schumann:


I agree. After comparing them, I find that the most misanthropic religious doctrine has more to offer than this deranged assault therapy.

Without fail, the worst con artists I've ever run afoul of are the ones that ran around preaching the gospel of "positive thinking." Meaning no disrespect to Geoff, but it's no accident that so many of them seem to come out of religious environments, or at least they borrow the trappings of old time religion to (as one commentator put it) "slip their warped message on you."


This is a great topic.

One of these jerks gave a lengthy seminar where I used to work and it seemed only a few of us rightly interpreted it as a prelude to layoffs and minuscule annual raises. I think management also scheduled it just because complainers were killing their top-o-the-food chain buzz.

This dude Al points out here seems to take a pseudo-scientific approach to attitude adjustment but there is an equally pernicious flavor that comes with a dollop of New Age 'spirituality'. This brand is quite prominent in my large family. I have a sister who 'Meditates For Peace', for instance, and to this day is a complete sucker for Obama, who, unbelievably, is regarded in some New Age circles as a 'highly evolved being' and 'lightbringer'.

The worst thing about these people is that their sunny view of things is not so durable that it can withstand the more jaundiced view of others and they have quite a repertoire of passive-aggressive variations on 'Shut up' when negative political energy intrudes. My family has something of an activist history and so a favorite maneuver is to ask what organized resistance one is participating in or recommending in response to whatever it is you're complaining about. My sister pulled this one recently after I'd told her the Google Street View she approvingly emailed because it featured her beloved cat was creepy.

The mystical brand is particularly pernicious in the extent to which it denigrates the rational, logical mind that is obviously so necessary to comprehending the full horror of, say, American foreign policy. There is some brain scientist, who I can't be bothered to Google, who is quite popular in this crowd. She had a aneurysm or something that shut off the word and logic part of her brain, and has made a career of telling everyone how thoroughly wonderful it was. These people invariably try to universalize everything, so I doubt it occurs to anyone to ask her or themselves, how terribly wonderful and deeply mystical the experience might have been had she not been a well-compensated scientist, with a family, a home and a robust insurance plan.

With all that said, I am somewhat reluctant to let this riff-raff completely taint the idea of deliberately cultivating gratitude or trying to feel good about life. I have, on my own been, been trying to feel more grateful, because the way I feel too much of the time keeps me from engaging in activities that would genuinely improve other people's lives including the simple act of being generally pleasant. I am operating on the not-yet-proven assumption that I can have a sunnier outlook without becoming a deluded tool. We'll see.


ms xeno: Out of religious environments no doubt, but many have obviously not read their own texts. One of the things I love about the Judeo-Christian tradition is the way it serves as a grim antidote not only to psychopathic positivity, but also to the notion of, "put your mind to it and you can accomplish anything." The Old and New Testaments are capricious texts, and also none too kind to either the rich or the righteous.

Al: Exactly. I mean, this smiling sociopathy whithers when compared with, say, The Binding of Isaac. (As the father of a young son, by the way, I confess to occasional sympathy for old Abe.)


I am thankful that each new day brings the opportunity to be pissed off at something.

I also have a completely unproven, wholly anecdotal theory that men who wake up every morning either pissed off or with a score to settle live longer, more robust lives. They face each day with a purpose, a reason to get out of bed. In my experience, they seem to live to a riper age than their sunnier counterparts, who are ultimately, perhaps, more passive and accepting. (I have only observed this in cantankerous men; my informal study has not included women, though come to think of it...)


i am grateful that one day i will be a line on the side of a pretty canyon.

Happy Jack:

I appreciated the shout-out to Cicero. I'm striving to become one of the wealthy elite who has his body parts tacked up for public display, purely for happiness.

These methods work, otherwise I would have chosen the moniker Morose Jack.


diamond dog
great comment


diamond dog
great comment

[blushing] Thank you.

Al Schumann:


There is reason to believe irascible, skeptical people—of all chromosomal persuasions—enjoy comparatively better lives. Admittedly, it's less a factor of general physical health than their tendency to assist the slap happy people over cliffs and off bridges. I don't want to make moral issue of that, but I do consider it a true public service.

I'm a fan of the QBQ! myself, but this is great.

Al Schumann:

I recommend Ethan's QBQ collection.

Was not trying to self-promote, but thanks! I promise I'll be getting back to it soon.

Al Schumann:

I know, and I'm a bit embarrassed by my awkwardness. I wanted to add more than a bland, empty remark and a link, but kept fucking it up. There were several paragraphs of fuck-up at one point. I cut my losses and settled for a single sentence of fuck-up.

Hey, just because I didn't intend to self-promote doesn't mean I won't take it! Thanks are sincere.

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