Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Monday, August 03, 2009

New-Wage meets New-Rage?

"People don’t want to be beat up every day with, This caffeine product is going to kill you, or, The seas are rising and New York’s going to get flooded. They want to hear about greatness.

"They want — people want to be inspired! People want to be motivated. They want their positive thoughts validated. They don’t want to hear every day how everything’s going to hell in a handbasket and there’s a shortage of handbaskets. They don’t want to hear this. That’s what gets ratings on television. I have shown you get ratings on radio being positive, respecting the audience, being inspiring and motivational at times, when it’s necessary."

~Rush Limbaugh, explaining his consistently high ratings after 21 years on the air

Where have we heard that rousing "people want to be motivated" spiel before (and its corollary, "The mainstream media are just too darned negative")?* Hmmm....

Rush was halfway correct (perhaps a result of talking with half his brain tied behind his back).** The truth is that people...duh...want their thoughts validated, whether positive or negative. And they adore those who pander to them by consistently and passionately arguing that someone or something else is responsible for the negative stuff. Which Rush does, of course, and very skillfully too, despite his claim that he's all about positivity and "greatness." In fact, the main way that the New-Wage gurus differ from Rush (and other talk-radio raconteurs of all political stripes; I want to be fair here) is that Rush and company make their main living by dwelling on negativity.***

The New-Wage gurus, on the other hand, just sweep the negative crud under their magic carpets and pretend it doesn't exist. The problem with magic carpets is that they rise (probably as a result of all of that hot air), and expose the negative anyway. If the bad stuff bites the New-Wagers' butts, they just blame it on (1) the flaws and limitations of their critics; or (2) more abstract or mystical forces such as Mercury in retrograde, Earth Changes, 2012, the conflict between old and new paradigms, or Satan.

Given the choice between Rush and the New-Wage gurus, I'll take...um...Jon Stewart, any day.

PS ~ One of the best works I've ever read on what motivates people is Blair Warren's One Sentence Persuasion Course. Blair and I are not exactly on the same page politically, but I still consider him a pal. And I truly enjoy his writing.

* Of course, Rush's audience would add that the mainstream media are also too darned liberal.
** Which might help 'splain why his head fits so neatly up his...um...
*** Just as I'm doing here on this very blog. You bet I'm pandering to my audience, and I'm proud of it, too. The distinction between myself and more famous shameless panderers is that, alas, I'm not making a living at it...yet. So far I've earned a mighty thirteen dollars and change from Google Ads, but those funds are frozen because the Google Adsense site is malfunctioning and I can't complete the process of providing payment information. Lots of other folks are apparently having this problem as well. (Speaking of Google Adsense, I'm beginning to think that their bots do have a sense of humor. Currently the ad atop this post links to a site selling pain-relief supplements for horses.)

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Blogger Dave said...


Pretty deep. I'm no Rush fan (now)*, but I don't hear about him hawking his wares all that much, like the New-Wage crowd.

The opposite parallels, however, are definitely there. So I guess Rush is Yin and, say, Mr. Fire is Yang? I like it!

*I used to listen to Rush back in the mid-late 90's, until I finally realized all he did was say the same thing, over and over, and his vitriol just wasn't helpful. Now I just don't listen to anyone... Except my wife.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009 6:17:00 PM  
Anonymous mojo said...

I think just about every SFF genre franchise (Twilight Zone, etc.)--from Ovid first telling us the story of King Midas on--eventually runs the old tired plot of how if you give a human being godlike powers to have whatever they want, even if they have the best intentions, things have a disturbing tendency to go terribly wrong and they just make a mess of the life or the world or the government they are striving to perfect.

Why this desperate need for perpetual happiness people think they "deserve"? To quote Clint Eastwood in "Unforgiven" (one of the greatest movies EVER to illustrate rumors and storytelling and forever muddy the notions of what's good vs. what's bad): "Deservin's got nothin' to do with it." It's been my humble impression that people learn a lot more about life and grow more when they experience painful failures and bitter defeats than they ever will skipping around a garden eating bon-bons.

(Look where dreaming of Better Things got Madame Bovary...)

And how do they true-up their "I deserve happiness" insistence with the old Taoist story, which (sometimes the very same) New Agers are always popping up with when they want to look spiritual? You know the one--about the farmer whose horse ran away (oooh that's bad luck!) only to return with a dozen wild horses following him (oooh that's good luck!) only to have his son break his leg working with one of the horses (ouch, bad luck again) only to have nasty government troops come in the next day conscripting all the young men for battle, and the kid gets left behind because of his broken leg (hooray, good luck again!). Dang! Which one causes happiness again? I lost track!

Or as the Simpsons once put it when they tried to come up with a moral for what had happened to them one episode:

Lisa: "Maybe there is no moral."
Homer: "Yeah! Maybe it's just a bunch of STUFF that happens to people!"

Me, I take a page from Voltaire's Candide, another must-read for the positivity crowd. While others keep insisting it's the best of all possible worlds, I go out and work in the garden. (And yes, even though I don't have cable, I enjoy catching the occasional Jon Stewart on the internet.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009 1:21:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Dave, I used to listen to Rush on occasion too, back in the early 1990s. At that time I'd recently discovered skepticism and was really getting disillusioned with New-Wage stuff. Since I was rebelling against my former beliefs in that area, Rush seemed kind of an extension of all of that, for I was also discovering Libertarianism and rebelling against my former 'knee-jerk' liberalism. I did think that some of Rush's commercial parodies were funny.

But I quickly grew tired of his ranting, and even though his own neologisms such as "feminazi" seemed clever the first hundred times or so that I heard it, I got tired of that too.

These days I suppose you could categorize me as a Libertarian type with generally liberal leanings, and an agnostic/quasi-skeptic who is (appearances to the contrary) more sympathetic to the mystical p.o.v. than the hard-core skeptic.

And I don't listen to the radio much at all.

Saturday, August 08, 2009 9:50:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Mojo, there's a book's worth of wisdom in your comment -- not only regarding the New-Wage cult of "entitlement," but also in your implication that there's a lot of fulfillment to be found out here in the sticks. (I'm not into gardening but I do find that hanging around the horses is increasingly therapeutic.)

I think that what so many New-Wagers and others fear more than anything is that the Simpsons were indeed right. Maybe life really is "just a bunch of stuff that happens to people." That's why it alternately amuses and annoys me to see the LOA crowd constantly second-guessing the Universe and either (1) trying to figure out why something happened or didn't happen the way they wanted or expected; or (2) trying to sell other people products that will whip that ol' Universe into shape and make it deliver the goods.

Of course New-Wagers are not the first or only second-guessers. We all try to find meaning in what may very well be meaningless, or "reasons" for the bad things that happen. I know I've probably told this story before, but... my dad was killed by a drunk driver when my brother, sister and I were quite young. A lot of the religious folk came up to us at the funeral and, after expressing their genuine sympathy, they would invariably murmur something about his tragic death being "God's will." (They would offer this opinion without our asking for it.) After a while the words ran together and sounded to me like "God swill." I appreciated their efforts but their words were not comforting. My dad was gone, our family was shattered, and the drunk young man, who had rich parents (who actually showed up at our home one evening to plead their son's case to my mom), never saw a day of jail time.

And I know that there are a thousand possible explanations for the "why" of what happened -- God's will, karma, LOA, etc. All I can say is that it's a very good thing that there were no LOA New-Wage types hanging around at the time.

Saturday, August 08, 2009 10:07:00 AM  

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