The idea of requiring self-delusion in order to achieve success, that one must drive oneself to a state of psychological ill health, is not ideal.
Self-delusion is not a desirable state. Let’s face it, conditions are not good, not beneficial, not conducive to your potential success, yet you are told you should power through those conditions believing in your ability to surmount them because your own BELIEF matters more than a more supportive reality. When you don’t succeed, you find yourself in a state of cognitive dissonance.
Are we saying environmental, social, cultural, and racial conditions have no effect on success? Are we suggesting it is possible to overcome all of those things just by believing? That belief in one’s success is more important than having vast amounts of money, generational wealth, two or more parents whose educational capacities offered them a greater range of opportunity, where one grew up, what conditions one grew up in. Does living on a Superfund site or next to a toxic powerplant have no effect on one’s ability to be successful?
Or is it that an example of a person who HAS been successful despite an upbringing of hardship inspire people to do more with less and justify us doing LESS for them to BE successful?
Perhaps its time to look at what’s required for success. Perhaps we, as a nation, should examine WHY we think a people should have to destroy their lives, sacrifice their families, throw away their ethics, undermine the laws, and subvert our very psychology to be willing to do whatever they deem necessary, (over the bodies of the rest of us) is a desirable condition we should all aspire to… a cognitive madness which justifies all things, no matter how monstrous, on the altar of individual success.
Or is this a perspective of privilege, an aspect of being white in America? The idea of mega-wealth success is built into the White expectations of Americans, who believe themselves to be embarrassed millionaires rather than crazed paupers destroying everything around them for a longshot chance at being successful.
How much of the national pathology is built in this idea that MY success requires YOUR sacrifice?
An article I read this morning says the average person in America fails because they don’t believe in their ability to be successful. The writer assumes it is their lack of commitment to the task which results in their failure.
Are we truly implying that there are no other forces which can prevent a person from being successful? We present the individual who overcomes their circumstances as a model of success without acknowledging the range of factors and circumstances which may have made that success possible.
We have living proof that having money does not necessarily lead to success.
Consider two of the more modern presidents, George W. Bush, whose claim to fame before the presidency was… Yeah, you think about it and get back to me. Currently, Donald Trump is telling us about his success rates in business, but his list of failures exceeds anything resembling success.
If his presidency is any indication of his inability to be successful, I can’t tell what would be a better indicator. He has no people sense. He has not managed to pick a single individual to work in his administration, we can all agree is able to do the job they were hired for.
He has no sense of economic management: his ideas toward trade and tariffs have the nation engaged in a battle of economic one-upmanship, which is going to cost both the stock market and the trade interactions between nations billions of dollars in the next two to five years unless it can be corrected by more reasonable adults.
His international policies are undermining what amounts to decades of peaceful cooperation between nations, destroying soft power, relationships which took decades to create, and leaving them a smoldering crater with diplomats being recalled and embassies being closed, raising the tensions between nations which have been allies since World War II.
Is the line between success and failure truly SELF-DELUSION?
Is what we are teaching Americans is the idea that the most important thing you can do when you are striving for success is to pathologically believe in what you are doing, no matter who it hurts, no matter what is left in your wake and that it is this total “burning of my boats, no retreat” mentality which leads to successful businesses and interactions in this nation?
We always hear about the success stories. That one person who, against all odds overcomes the challenges and becomes fabulously successful. We NEVER hear about the pyramid of bodies and businesses he has had to stop over to achieve that success. We never talk about the pathology of business which demands people push themselves past the point of good physical or mental health, driven to the point of exhaustion, to the point of poor decision making, to the point of literally driving while they are asleep at the wheel.
We tell people the only way to success is to individually drive yourself mad, delude yourself with the idea of your greatness and YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL.
But is this true?
If it is, are we suggesting Americans should push for their idea of success, no matter what kind of wreckage, social, cultural, economic it leaves in its wake?
Let me posit just one example you are all familiar with: The Economic Collapse of 2009.
A tiny group of people basically defrauded the nation by taking advantage of laws which were lax and allowed them to create commodities which embodied properties that did not have the values they were purported to. As long as no one looked too closely, the economic values of these commodities drove prices higher until one day, the bottom fell out of the market.
The values of these commodities were revealed and as the house of cards collapsed, the ENTIRE world’s economy was imperiled.
There’s little in the way of comprehensive bean-counting when it comes to the financial crisis. That’s in part because it’s still unfolding.
But also because much of the human fallout can’t really be monetized. For example, the Treasury Department, in an April assessment, put the total lost household wealth at $19.2 trillion. However, that doesn’t take into account long-term effects of homeowners who may be less socially mobile — and therefore contribute less to the economy over time.
Millions of Americans lost their jobs. Millions more lost their homes, their pensions, their life-savings, their livelihoods and the damage wasn’t just in the moment. The collapse has reset wages, lowering them across the nation, increasing profits made by companies but reducing how much individuals bring home, forcing them to work longer hours with less opportunity, less options, and in a more precarious state.
This singular event caused a shockwave across the planet, destabilizing EVERYONE’S opportunities while a few reaped massive rewards because of their DELUSION they were ENTITLED to this wealth because they could imagine having it and there were no laws against it. Ethically it was questionable but legally, they were able to devastate the world’s economy, without consequence.
Is this what we mean when we say:
The key to succeeding in life is having an unwavering, almost deluded conviction you’ll be successful… That no matter what happens, your success should occur and nothing should stop you. Not even the destruction of the rest of the world around you…
This is a sickness. A sickness which is still killing people by making them unable to afford healthcare because GREED demands stockholders maximize their already fabulous wealth at OUR expense.
How much longer can society stand this strain? How long before people start putting two and two together and realizing the lie being presented as success is more of a funeral pyre for a nation than a beacon of hope for the future?
Is the best we can hope for is a nation of madmen professing their success mantras while the economic fires ravage the lives of people whose “belief” couldn’t overcome the structural racism, the economic inequity, the poisoned infrastructure, the toxic runoff, the corporate malfeasance, the stockholder’s belief in perpetual profits, that nature can survive our continual onslaught of profiteering and “winning.”
Yes, go ahead. Spin this. Make it sound unreasonable. Make people believe we can continue destroying each other for wealth. It’s one of the greatest lies ever told.
Believe your way into prosperity, you mad genius, you. Emphasis on the mad. Ignore the burning reality around you. Because your success may require my sacrifice.
I would do the same to you.
The Cognitive Dissident
This post was originally published on the author’s Facebook timeline and is republished here with the author’s permission.
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