Here’s a great link on the dangers of la-la positive thinking, as demonstrated by Eat, Pray, Love and a great feminist take on the whole thing. Thinking positive is good, but the philosophy only works if you’re already a person of privilege. White, western, educated women can think their way to a positive, successful life because by and large, they already have it. Your parents worked for it, your country paved the way for it, and your skin color certainly didn’t hurt.
But what about people with (and I hesitate to say this, but it seems necessary) real problems? Hungry people can certainly stay upbeat and do the best they can, but that won’t make them less hungry.
It is the complacent who let themselves be oppressed, which is one of the better arguments for why dictators should bother to feed their people. Keep ’em fat, happy and reading the Secret and suddenly their problems either don’t exist or are solely their fault.
Not to be ridiculous, but the Holocaust didn’t happen because Jews were pessimistic or cranky. People don’t have cancer relapses because they stopped writing in their daily affirmation journals. Louisiana and much of Southeast Asia could absolutely not have used positive thinking to clean up after a natural disaster. They used their damn hands. Should you count your blessings? Of course. But the mindset that all things can be fixed with positive thinking also implies that the opposite is true: people with problems should have fixed them with optimism and “positive energy”.