"Recession? What recession?"
The economic crisis has not only given the talking heads on TV a whole lot more to talk about, it has also been a boon to advertisers, marketers and entrepreneurs of all stripes. Some of these people are scam artists, some are merely clever or crass opportunists, and some are just scrabbling to make a living because they, like so many others, have lost their primary sources of income. Whether scammers, legit, or semi-legit, they are all seeking new money ops through one or more of the following: (1) further scaring people about what's going on; (2) reassuring people that the problem has been greatly exaggerated; or (3) admitting that, hey, there's a problem, but there's a way out if you only buy the right products or services or attend the right workshops. Many employ varying combinations of these three basic strategies.
As one of the most prominent New-Wage practitioners of strategy number 3, Tony Robbins is all over the place with advice, products, workshops and even an upcoming TV show about staying positive in tough times. He's just one example, of course. Jack "Chicken Soup" Canfield and numerous others are also finding new ways to help people through the hard times – for a price.
Among those who opt for strategy number 2, claiming the economic problem has been greatly exaggerated, there's a whole movement afoot to "refuse to participate in the recession," the latter-day version of whistling past the graveyard. The Net is awash with blog posts and videos from New-Wagers who, with achingly transparent motives, are crossing the sometimes fine line between optimism and stubborn denial.
Don't get me wrong. I think there's actually a pretty good case for the argument that too much negative reporting about the sinking economy is exacerbating the problem in some ways. And, as columnist David Brooks wrote in a January op-ed piece, "A recession is a mental event, and every recession has its own unique spirit." He wasn't being New-Wagey; he was simply writing about ways in which human foibles and the irrational human mind have contributed to the economic crisis.
But it is the media's job to report what's going on; should they simply ignore all of the negative news from Wall Street and the halls of corporate America? Besides, the media don't exist in a vacuum. Above all else they are in business to make money, and they are responding to the public's desires and fears as much as they are creating or encouraging those desires and fears. If no one ever tuned in to the negative stuff, word would eventually reach the powers-that-be, and every TV show would be Donny Deutsch's The Big Idea (well, before it became a forum for bitching about how bad the economy is).
More to the point, by deliberately vilifying the media to promote their own happy-happy joy-joy wares, many New-Wagers are chiefly helping their own economy above all else. (All together now: "Duh!")
Consider Joe Vitale and his exaggerated indignation about the dastardly mainstream media, expressed in a recent blog post promoting his latest Nightingale-Conant CD/DVD program.
Something is driving me crazy and I need to get this off my chest!
Thanks to the negative media, there is a nasty, ruthless, disempowering myth going around that says…
America and the rest of the world is in financial danger, and we are at the mercy of the stock market, banks, and other major financial institutions.
He goes on to reassure his readers that we've survived worse crises, but that in any case he has just the antidote to financial worries: that new program of his.
This is the first time I have ever combined all my spiritual teachings with all my business and marketing tactics in a single CD/DVD program.
And MY marketing is based on total love.
You can imagine the power of these two forces combined to help you attract money.
Joe, like many others, has been preaching his "ignore the mainstream media" wisdom for some time now, and seems to be practicing what he preaches. As just one example, he recently confessed that he'd hadn't heard of the infamous Bernie Madoff till he got a comment to his blog asking how Madoff's victims could have possibly "attracted" their misfortune. His general attitude is that if you ignore the mainstream media, particularly the news media, you will be a happier person.
Large numbers of other, less famous New-Wage dilettantes are weighing in with their own versions of recession-denial. I came across a recent blog post by New-Wage entrepreneur and self-described "Master Top Shelf coach" Nan Akasha, who wrote:
Some have [experienced a recession], but most haven’t! Yes, the recession is a label and it does not apply to over 75% of the people in America! Most of you who know me, know I do not buy into others realities, I create my own. I know what makes me feel good and inspired and what does not. I intentionally focus on what makes me feel empowered and strong, happy and wealthy. Believing in a recession is not an empowering thought, so I do not choose it. My business is building, I am thrilled to help people change their lives, perceptions and feelings and my focus is on attracting those who are ready for change and want to get the results they want now. I do what I love and follow the feelings that support my success. Yes, you actually get to choose the feelings and thoughts that you decide are true for you, and that is what creates your reality.
You must see that not everyone is suffering right now. Wonder why? It is not luck, it is not greed, it is not anything outside. It is what they CHOOSE to think and feel. About themselves, the economy, their businesses, everything...
This is the same Nan who wrote a response to budding New-Wage entrepreneur Wendy G. Young's September 2008 blog post about Hurricane Ike, which I've mentioned here a couple of times before. Wendy wrote that she hadn't yet lost power due to the storm, and she intended to keep focusing on not losing power because "what we focus on we get, right?" Nan, writing under the moniker "Creatrix Nan," responded:
found your site! So glad to hear you are doing well, we got nothing here in San Antonio, it is sunny! Was looking forward to rain, but so glad it is turning out good for most everyone.
This is the exchange I chimed in on, as you'll see if you follow the above link; I mentioned to Nan that things didn't turn out so well for a lot of people in Galveston and Houston and surrounding areas. So far neither Wendy nor Nan has responded to my comment. I guess they are too busy creating realities where money problems are nonexistent, and lives are never torn asunder by forces of nature.
Okay, the Hurricane Ike blog bit is old news. The newer news is that Nan, like so many other New-Wagers major and minor, is busily engaged in selling the idea that it's only a recession if you think of it that way. Even if you've truly suffered a loss, Nan has a list of things you can do to get yourself out of recession mode and into a happy, abundant life. Several of these things, not surprisingly, involve buying "coaching" services or products from her. But one of the other strategies she recommends is to read a blog post by Jennifer McLean, New-Wage healer, marketer, and author of a coffee table book for narcissists, The Big Book Of You. Jennifer, who apparently reached her own pinnacle of success by jumping on the Joe Vitale gravy train,* is another wise teacher who says that recession is merely a state of mind, and she has the math and the hard-edge economics to prove it:
Let’s get back to this whole notion of recession: 11% or more are now unemployed, that means that there are 89% that are in the same financial position as they were a year ago, prior to this so called recession. Let’s be fair here and say that 80% of all of us are in the same if not a better position (I talk to literally dozens of people weekly that are telling me they are actually doing better (and I am one of those). What is happening is a state of mind-- that 11% is telling the 80% that they could be in trouble too, so DON’T SPEND. Guess what happens? They don’t spend so more will lose their jobs. These 80% have exactly what they have always had and yet fear is stopping them. And guess what fear will create for them… yep you got it, their circumstances will likely reflect their fear and they may go into poverty.
Professional economists, eat your hearts out!
As is the case with most problems, the severity of the financial crisis depends upon whom you ask. The above quotation from Jennifer McLean illustrates that it is as easy to put a positive spin on the situation as it is to give it a negative one. She uses unemployment figures to make her point, but unemployment figures simply do not tell the whole story. To begin with, they ignore the large numbers of underemployed or self-employed people who are suffering from the downturn in the economy.
And unemployment figures don't even begin to address numerous less dramatic examples of economic fallout, such as banks and credit card companies that use market conditions as an excuse to find new ways to screw their "little" customers, even after getting billions in bailout money. How many of you recently received a letter from your credit card company saying that due to current economic conditions, they're raising your APR to a usurious level (even if you have been making timely payments, and/or have a great credit rating)? How many have seen dramatic increases in fees and equally dramatic decreases in benefits from your bank? (What overdraft privilege?) How many small business owners, even those with good credit and a long history, are finding it difficult if not impossible to get loans now from some of those banks that got bailed out?
Some of this stuff has been going on for a few years, of course, but has become considerably worse recently.
The point is that even people who haven't lost their jobs or their homes are still dealing with real problems, both large and small, related to the downturn in the economy. While I quite agree that obsessing over these problems is counter-productive at best and dangerous at worst, so is denial. The world may look prettier when viewed from within a narcissistic bubble, but we all know what happens to bubbles, sooner or later. And even while the bubble lasts, the scheming or desperate narcissist within looks pretty pathetic from the outside.
But I'm getting way too serious here, as I sometimes do. So let me leave you with a little comic relief from another person who has been peddling his own brand of solutions to economic worries. I give you Brad "C'mon-Get-Tappy" Yates, who can't seem to stop touching himself and putting videos of it up on YouTube. Here's one of the latest.
And for those of you who would like to combine tapping with the ancient Hawaiian practice of Ho'oponononononononononononono, Brad has a special offering just for you. He even wears a Hawaiian shirt to make it really real.
A snarky pal of mine wrote to me that he just does not get these videos. "It's SCARY watching him tap himself like that," he wrote. "I wish I could laugh at him but I can't. Perhaps it's because for me the scariest horror movies take place in asylums with CRAZY people. And what do those crazy folk do? Well, most of the time they touch themselves and hit themselves ... Before, of course, turning on the 'innocent' people in the film..."
Hmm. If you look at it that way... but no, with all due respect to my friend, it's still funny.
And it is also yet another indication that denial is not just a river; it's a whole big ocean full of snark chum.
PS ~ To honor Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, here is a link to a poem that has been a favorite of mine since my junior high days. I suppose the photo above also pays tribute, in its own way, to Darwin.
PPS added on 24 February: SHAMblog's Steve Salerno makes some salient points about false hope, the economic crisis and other matters in his blog post, "Don't know about you, but I'm ready for some fear itself." Read it.
* Link added April 2009: Here is Jennifer McLean's success story.