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LOEWEN: Positivity porn and the trouble with Ted Talks

Image Credit: Contributed/Jeffrey Loewen
June 18, 2014 - 7:26 AM

Is your Facebook “wall” covered in Positivity Porn and TED Talks? Mine is. And it’s pissing me off.

Surely you know what I’m talking about — after all, there’s roughly a billion of you Facebook users out there. You’re posting nifty pics of cats and dogs (which, blush, I usually adore). You’re updating us on your latest gleanings from obscure picture archives in the Aether. You’re occasionally even straying into my favorite territory, Politics, with your latest opinions on the pressing issues of the day.

But way too many of you cats and dawgs are prissy Pollyannas, plastering the medium with your platitudes and paeans to Happiness and Hope, cajoling us to positive thinking as a means to attract more positive people into our lives, or trying to tantalize us with links to that most-nauseating-of-all Exercise In The Banal: The TED Talk.

Now hold on there a minute, you may be saying to yourself. Yeah, the Laws Of Attraction types are pretty loathsome. And Happiness and Hope do get pretty boring after awhile. But, TED Talks? Surely you cannot be serious. Look at the famous “thinkers” and “Innovators” that give away their insights to the Rest Of Us. Have you not been “inspired” by a single one of these informative chats?

No. I haven’t. And I will tell you why.

Several months ago Canada’s most over-rated city, Vancouver, hosted a TED X. As it happens, one of my Vancouver-based Facebook friends was there, not as a business-subsidized attendee, but as a performer at the Pan Pacific.

As I read the idea-barren effusings of my Facebook friend describing the personal epiphany he "experienced" at the TED talk, I became not a little nauseated. Waxing coquettishly about the "personal" nature of his experience as a guy "lucky enough to be in the right place at exactly the right time," he noted that it would be impossible to "share" the particulars of the experience, because, as he noted, the speaker forbade the sharing of the breakthrough in it all.

Face it, TED talks are, for the most part, a load of costly-to-attend SHITE conferences. The mega-rich shore up their ranks like bishops of the New Church (global capitalism) conferring blessings (ideas/creativity/innovation) upon their myopically obedient audiences. Distilled into no more than about 18 minutes, these wonders wow the lucky few in attendance, with their inspirational talks.

But what is the nature of the beast behind the facade? It's this: these ideas invariably sound the exactly the same as ideas that have been promulgated by better minds for years. The only difference is that in the new glitzy context of a TED-fricking-Talk, these "ideas" and "innovations" matter only if they tend towards an end that "grows the bottom line," that open up new markets to exploit. In other words, it's business-as-usual, folks.

The ideas themselves are monetized, in other words; and any truly Original Ideas darkening the hallowed hall will be retreating for the exits like blushing ghosts because the conference attendees are, well, basically members of the middle-managerial classes who aspire to take on the reigns of power from the very speakers that "inspire" them to go ahead and "think out of the box." Of course, the vast majority will never see the frayed end of that corporate rope-ladder, let alone the actual reins of power. But you can bet their minders will nod appreciatively as the drones return to their offices and cubicles in the cluttered skies above the financial district.

In the end, it's a scam, you're a dupe, and your company has just spent thousands to send you to the Church Of Mammon. Welcome brother, welcome sister: you're one of us. Welcome to The Machine.

There is a better way, friends: Let’s hear it for the Spirit of Negation!

We’ve had enough positivity and happiness for a while. There’s a big complex World out there that requires more than a poster with an uplifting message. It requires that we sometimes do the heavy-lifting that Democracy demands of us, and that means questioning the TED Talkers and their financial backers. It means turning your face away from Positivity Porn that will only guarantee that you’re not thinking at all critically once you latch on to its plush and self-serving comfort.

Because in the end, it’s usually about the Money, as Deep Throat from “All The President’s Men” counseled. And once you find the Money, honey, you ain’t gonna be too happy after all.

So, Facebook friends, stop posting the positive, and bring on the Negative. You will feel oddly cleansed of the trappings you’ve grown so cuddly-comfy with. And you’ll be WAY more interesting to read on my Facebook wall.

If you’re extra lucky, a few of the most mindless of your mates will Unfriend you altogether. And that’s always a good thing.

—  Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)gmail.com

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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