“Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America” by Barbara Ehrenreich

I loved this book! Ehrenreich started with her own experience of being told about the “bright side” of cancer. Ehrenreich’s response to cancer was ANGER. Anger that she had unknowingly exposed to carcinogens (as we all are), anger that the medical professions offer limited help, anger at people who said cancer would lead her to a better life if she would just let it.

Medical “positive thinking” inclines towards blaming the victim. “You can beat this if you just have the right attitude.” I think I was inoculated against this by my mother’s grim death from Alzheimer’s disease. No one will ever convince me that she died because she had a negative attitude (she didn’t) or because she got lazy… Sometimes THE DISEASE WINS. (Major life lesson.)

In addition to health issues, Ehrenreich analyzes the impact of positive thinking on economics (sub prime lending) and foreign policy (evaluation of terrorism risk). 

I don’t have a copy of the book in front of me. I believe there was a preface which said “This book is dedicated to the complainers of the world. Turn up the volume!” I’m personally convinced that knowing when to complain, and how to complain effectively, and doing it persistently and politely, are actions of a good citizen. 

Ehrenreich is a lively writer and a breath of fresh air. One Amazon reviewer summarized her attitude by saying “ignoring reality can be dangerous”. Good point! Read the book.


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