Self-help charlatans


In his essay The Travesty of Self-Help Advice the blogger Benjamin Cain (“Rants within the undead God”) rips into self-help charlatans. You could throw in your Word of Faith televangelists here too: his essay is incisive and unsparing. An important riposte to all the insufferable motivational mumbo jumbo. Mind you: Cain is scathing about religion in general, and yet I welcome his rant.

Some quotes:

“Outside of the academy, self-help platitudes have largely substituted for philosophical literature. This is both pitiful and fortunate. The pity is that the advice peddled by self-help writers is abysmal…”

“If the masses of sheeple are happy, because they’re uninformed and indoctrinated with self-help claptrap, it would be as rude to wake them as it would be to spoil a child’s fantasy about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny.”

“…the self-help garbling of philosophy is meant to provide excuses for the sociopathy of the richest one percent. When translated into a reality-based form, minus the veneer of happy-talking obfuscation, the self-help advice is to believe we’re permitted to be anything at all, even something monstrous such as the sociopaths who have “earned” the greatest success in business or politics…”

“Thus in self-help fantasyland it’s heads I win, tails you lose. If you want to be an astronaut and you happen to be one of the very few who succeed in that endeavour, a self-help charlatan would depict you as being basked in the further glory of having “stayed true to your heart,” of not giving up and so forth, forgetting the ever-present luck factor in everything that transpires. But if you fail, and most of us would, that’s because you gave up too soon…”

“The hidden significance of this piece of advice is that it follows the liar’s maxim to wrap the lie in the truth, to disguise the dishonest intention… the charlatan slides from saying that we create our inner world, to saying that we create our outer one too, which would be magical. You can “change your thoughts,” but according to the advice you likewise “have the capacity to change your emotions and also your reality” (my emphasis). The latter part is just tacked on, but the gibberish metaphysics is supposed to fill in the gap. Thus, if you focus on what you want, the “Law of Attraction” will kick in, which works like a magnet for spirituality and morality.” 

“What passes for self-help wisdom and thus for philosophy, for the nonphilosophical masses is a travesty. But the content of self-help advice should be distinguished from its functionWhat self-help gurus say is laughable, but the effect of these lessons must be to reinforce the more appalling aspects of Western culture that aren’t self-justifying. In short, the powerful few co-opt philosophy, religion, and any other source of information, spinning a narrative to defuse the potential for resistance to their domination.”

“…the self-help charlatan’s job is obviously just to cash in on mass ignorance.”

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