Has Chicken Soup for the Soul replaced Common Sense? Why has thinking gone to pasture? Have we lost our minds entirely?
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And just a reminder that with all this peddling comes the proverbial answer to all your problems in the form of some magical short-cut.
It’s all well and good to stimulate the economy with publishing and manufacturing but the result is the American public has been corralled like herds of cattle to a trough instead of being allowed to, er, ruminate. To mentally chew the cuds, as it were. Before swallowing the crud.
Sadly, the American consumer has lost his appetite for independent thinking. A little bit of Paine here: “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”
So why did thinking go to pasture?
Common sense tells me that this seeking of external advice — this self-help culture — did not originate in Paine’s day not least because American colonists were, ipso facto, the self-reliant sort who thrived on using their thinker to seek solutions.
Wikipedia dates self-help back as far as 700 B.C. with the Greek poet Hesiod’s Works and Days dispensing agricultural advice, just as Ben Franklin’s (who, coincidentally, was the one who convinced Paine to go to America) farmer’s almanac Poor Richard did about 1,000 years later.
But when did the Big Bang of self-help occur? According to Wiki, it started in 1859 with the aptly titled book Self Help instantly donning its author Samuel Smiles with fame and fortune. Then came the still well-known 1936 blockbuster How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Of course we read it. But it wasn’t until the final third of the 20th century that self-help really exploded. And at the beginning of the 21st century, says Wiki, the self improvement industry — books, seminars, coaches, and videos — rang in $2.48 billion per year.
So with 152 years of this stuff behind us I’m obliged to inflict some Paine: “Time makes more converts than reason.” And with this, and thousands and thousands of individual titles sold, I can’t help but observe that the dummification of the American mind is in full swing.
Self help has morphed into self helpless.
As if self help books and such weren’t enough to aid and abet the insidious disabling of the American mind, the emerging market of the convenience industry in the 1950s was a big help: A post-war steroidal pumping of the economy with hyper-production of products and ads to induce visions of leisure in our head. Ladies and gentlemen: the TV dinner is served. Indeed a handy time-saver for working mothers but this sort of thing, with its concomitant advertising, induces feelings that suppress common sense which would otherwise question, say, the ingredients, for one.
Even TV trays popped up in 1952 to further coach us into consuming more advertising for “tasteless” products we didn’t need to, well, consume. Like the proverbial lemmings mindlessly heading for cliffs, we dutifully propped them up in the living room for expediency and, naturally, stopped engaging in dinner conversation so healthy to family life.
Food that looks and smells of styrofoam shouldn’t be touched. I don’t even need to go back 3.2 million years ago when our ancient Australopethicene ancestor Lucy roamed the Kenyan savannah. So here’s my rule of thumb: if Lucy didn’t eat it then neither should you. If an ingredient on a label didn’t exist — even 3.2 thousand years ago — it is likely a molecule concocted by a PhD and not exactly good for human consumption. Our little cells were simply not designed to metabolize Red Dye Number whatever.
If the '50s homemaker really preferred to “cook” instead, she could now open a box of Betty Crocker cake-mix…and just add water. Making soup? Or spaghetti? Just open a can. Or add a can of this to a can of that and, voilá, you have broccoli au gratin.
Even laughter was canned. And since television producers told us what is funny and when to laugh., even laughter lost its independence.
As did our birthday and Christmas greetings. Hallmark came along and left us with a loss for words.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?