Sunday, December 27, 2009


There is a new epidemic in the world.

I call it "Positivitis".

It is a mental disease, which causes the victim to systematically over-evaluate everything that puts her or him in a "positive" frame of mind, and to discount everything that might put her or him in a "negative" frame of mind.

Victims of this disease insist on defining "positive" and "negative" according to their own whim or fancy.

Generally, however, "positive" equals "anything that enables me to continue feeling happy with my chosen way of life".

"Negative", for those suffering from this disease, equals "anything that causes me to question any aspect of my lifestyle, opinions or moods".

Probably, throughout history, there have been individuals who have suffered from "Positivitis".

However, these individuals usually belonged to the ruling elite and were therefore only a handful in any society.

Since the 1980s, the number in the global elite has greatly increased.

We who read this Blog in all probability belong to the global elite, because of education, access to the internet and other technical resources, as well as financial resources that, even among the so-called "middle class" today are greater than most kings enjoyed through history.

That is something that is well hidden from us because of the incessant propaganda which tends to prompt us to be focused on the rat race.

We therefore do not even realise that confronted with an enormously significant choice: to use our resources and situation merely to live as comfortably as possible, or to use our status and resources to struggle for making the world better.

Those who attempt the latter are trying to be true realists. Those who attempt the former choose the disease that I call "Positivitis".

If the disease affected only the individuals who make a deliberate choice of "Posititivitis", that would be bad enough.

But some sufferers of "Positivitis" choose an extreme form of the disease: "Fundamentailst Positivism" or even "Fascist Positivism".

"Fascist Positivists" are those who deliberately blind themselves so totally to reality that they ferociously and violently attack anyone who is a realist.

Unlike "Fascist Positivists, "Fundamentalist Positivists" do not to attack those who are realists. But "Fundamentalist Positivists" do feel compelled to use their position to distort reality for others, by producing propaganda about "Positivism".

A headline from a recent newsletter from one of the most respected Business Schools in the world provides an instructive case study.

Here is the headline: "All Is Not Doom and Gloom for Artists".

From the headline, one would expect that there is something objectively good starting to happen for artists. Perhaps a new source of funding. Or a new channel of publicity. Or an opportunity to have more cheaply the supplies they need for their profession.

But on examining the article, one finds that there is no additional source of funding, no additional channel for publicising their work, no means of obtaining the supplies they need more cheaply. In fact, nothing objectively better at all: "For working artists, the recession has meant lower income from sales and reduced support from grants".

So what's the good news? Apparently, "about one-third ...say they are experiencing more openness to collaboration, one-third say they are able to experiment more, and one-tenth of the respondents say they are able to get cheaper work space now.".

Let's think about those three elements.

On the first element, if one-third say that they are experiencing more openness to collaboration, does that mean that perhaps one seventh are experiencing the same level of openness to collaboration, while the rest (the majority) are actually experiencing less openness to collaboration?

On the 2nd element: if one third say they are able to experiment more, what does that tell us about the other two-thirds? Are the vast majority (two-thirds) actually experimenting less?!

Similarly, on the third element: if only one-tenth are able to get cheaper work space now, does that mean that nine-tenths are not able to get cheaper work space even with the decline in real estate prices since some time in 2007?

The kind of "Positivitis" displayed by the Business School newsletter is particulary galling in view of the following facts that are also quoted:

* Two-thirds of artists hold at least one job in addition to making art

* Artists’ incomes are relatively low (two-thirds made less than $40,000 in 2008), and 51% reported an actual decrease even in that small art-related income from 2008 to 2009

* Forty percent of artists do not have adequate health insurance and more than 50%are worried about losing what they do have.

All that such "Fundamentalistically Positivitist" articles do is to put a "positive spin" on a worsening situation for artists.

"Fundamentalistically Positivist" articles and feel-good speeches help to create or perpetuate an illusion - in this case, that the situation is not so bad for artists after all, so that we are discouraged from concern about the situation of artists, and de-motivated from doing anything to improve the situation. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Sam B said...

Have you read the book "The Empire of Illusion" by Chris Hedges ? I have only read a summary, but it goes along similar lines to your positivisme, but probably more scathing.

Having recently moved from Europe to N America, I was perplex as to the culture and was trying to understand. There are of course many different areas that affect a culture, but the emphasis of news "Shows" which mask reality is a pretty big element.

So we move from your "Positivism" to a world of Illusion, and cant differentiate between reality and the rest !