I hadn’t realised, until I went to a seminar called ‘How to Thrive During Your PhD’ a few months back, that the self-help industry was completely hooked into academia…or vice versa. The psychologist presenting it had the gall to show a pie chart which suggested that a lot of how you feel is your own damned fault.
I might have been shocked anyway, but to show this to a bunch of 25 year olds during an event of cataclysmic dimensions which may change their lives permanently for the worst seemed to me….let’s say cheap. Tacky. Dishonest. And guaranteed to seriously depress any intelligent person watching.
The woman presenting to us did bother to mention Barbara Ehrenreich, who writes the foreword to this book, but it is only in order to dismiss her. You can’t, apparently, create a bookselling industry and an academic genre (sic) out of realistic, pessimistic thinking, EVEN if it’s demonstrably the path to success. Positive thinking, my friends, that’s where the smart money is.
And she followed up with segments like this:
Hard to believe you would do this to a group of people who are supposedly ‘high achievers’. But seriously, we had to watch a 30 second video of a kitten and a puppy being aw-shucks-cute-together and lo, witness the change in what you wanted to do. In my case I wanted to ‘exit the seminar before I jumped out the window’ beforehand, whilst after I wanted to stab my own eyes out rather than watch another kitten video ever in my life. In case you are wondering, this was a definite decline as I’m on the ground floor and hence my prior state of mood was most definitely safer.
So after I finished this book, Hand to Mouth, aptly introduced by Ehrenreich, I looked up Tirado online. My hope was that she’d finally got lucky. In my world view, the appalling things that had happened to her to date were not a consequence of a baaaad attitude on her part. She hadn’t failed to make her happiness. The USA, that f*cked up sh]tt@ry of a place, had done that for her. Her stamina for not giving in to it all was awe-inspiring. Her realism, her acceptance of the point of capitalism, that in order for a minority to live in a privileged world (darling, COVID’s been such an opportunity to slow down), people like her have to live this humiliating, exhausting existence to support that other class….this should be profoundly embarrassing for nice white people. For the 40% of happiness which they have ‘made’ for themselves (intentionally), is directly linked to the horrifying exploitation of the author of this book and the millions in the US for whom she speaks.
Life fucking sucks big time. Where’s that on the pie chart above?
And what I discovered, when I looked her up, was this. On May 29, in Minneapolis, the first night of curfew, she was shot by police after telling them she was ‘press’. As a consequence she is now blind in one eye, with some hearing loss as well. She has a suit against the police, though without being able to identify the assailant, I wonder what her chances are like.
Her Patreon page is here.