Friday, June 18, 2010

Old Wine, Not so New Bottle

My response to Prasad Raghavan’s show entitled “Shot Tilt” (currently showing at Gallery BMB) was strangely schizophrenic. In this show, the artist deals with themes such as excessive consumption, urbanization, greed and culpability. He explores the human preoccupation with ;things,' and the toll this extracts from society and the environment.

When I first entered the gallery, I was pleasantly surprised. The themes were topical – not in the strangely distant way that art sometimes tends to be – but in a way that seemed very current and relevant. Art is sometimes embarrassed about embracing the immediate – this show was not. And the works themselves were easy to decode and relate to – something of a comfort in these days of almost extreme abstraction. Raghavan provided enough hooks, both explicit and implicit, to allow a viewer to engage with the show.

But as I wound my way around the gallery, I began to experience a sense of deja-vu. I had seen these works before. A riff on Warhol’s soup cans to bring to mind assembly lines, and reiterate the ‘consumability’ of modern culture? Check. Collages composed of millions of cars, plastic bags, high-rise buildings and smut to depict excess? Check. An installation reminding us of the hypocrisy of branding and globalization? Check. Puns on movie posters? Check.

I left the gallery annoyed with the predictability that permeated the entire show. It seemed as if Raghavan had strung together standard-issue elements protesting the encroachment of goods and globalization, with little imagination. It was the kind of show where the artist fooled himself into thinking that he was contributing something new to a larger, ongoing dialogue, and invited the viewer to participate in the deception. Recommended only for those who can take their clichés with a pinch of salt. 

Mulling the Vacuousness of Variables

A few days ago, the Hindustan Times (Bombay edition) featured results from a data compilation conducted by the Tata Strategic Management Group (TSMG). More details can be found here-  http://epaper.hindustantimes.com/Default.aspx?Id=4732524D44634E503452454761516175534D304C706661536D6C2B2F4530656F494E7A6F745436567A5A553D


According to the data, Delhi, Bombay, Pune, Bangalore and Chandigarh are the highest rankers in terms of the well-being (quality of life) index. Low scorers include Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Arunachal Pradesh. As far as the Female Security Index, a measure of crime against women is concerned, Orissa, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala fare well. Maharashtra (including Bombay), Delhi, Haryana, MP and Assam fare the worst. Given that the states with the highest well-being indices are also among the poorest in terms of women's security, the TSMG makes the assertion that there is no link between affluence and security. This is apparently critical information that our government could use to great advantage. Applause!


I thought the entire exercise was a textbook study in how data can be mismanaged and misinterpreted.


To begin with, I find it difficult to believe that any city can be considered to offer a superior quality of life when a significant segment of population feels unsafe within it. Women contribute to cities, build them, rear children in them, and work in them. Shouldn’t their sense of safety be built into any construct that claims to approximate the well-being of the city’s citizens at large? Any distinction between quality of life and security is artificial – a theoretical cop-out.


Moreover, the female security index was developed using two variables – the gender ratio, and the crime rate against women. While these variables may provide a starting point with which to assess the environment in which women function, it’s naïve to assume that they in any way represent a woman’s lived experience in a city.


Gender ratios tend to differ between regions in a state, and indeed, within communities and income groups within a single region. This study fails to account for that complexity. Moreover, gender ratios have been skewed in most parts of the country for generations – I am not sure whether this study accounts for any historical improvement or deterioration of the ratio – a better indication of how attitudes to girl children and women are evolving.


The rate of reported crimes against women is also extremely problematic as a measure of women’s safety. Women report crimes when they are secure in the knowledge that they will not be harassed by perpetrators or the police. At the very least, they will seek support from family, social organizations or their community before reporting any offence – and how many women in India can truly draw on such support when needed? Added to this are issues of perceptions and awareness regarding crime – surveys have shown that many Indian women find the idea of ‘domestic violence’ laughable – it is not part of their view of the world. No crime rate can account for the invisible injustices and indignities women encounter every day, and which they tolerate as a part of ‘their lot.’


It's also important to note that a woman’s safety is not only about the likelihood of being murdered or raped. It is about the little things as well, the intimidating body language of passers-by in the street, the fear of wearing a ‘provocative’ outfit, the ability to go out at night knowing that one can use public transport to get back home. Which is why I find it difficult to believe that Bihar ranks higher than Bombay on safety for women. In my experience, Bombay is one of the safest cities for women in the country – women are out and about with much more confidence here than in, let’s say, Patna. It’s possible that my experience is limited and non-representative, but my point is that it’s not enough to look at a crime rate in Bihar and say that the state is safe – it is likely that women in Bombay are just more willing to confront and register crimes than those in other parts of the country.


And given that well-being in this study is constitued of factors such education, hygiene, entertainment, communication, healthcare, transportation, home amenities and kitchen facilities, it is of course no suprise that there seems to be little connection between well-being and women's safety. There is no overlap in how these constructs are measured, and I am not sure whether any attempt has been made to tease out links between education statistics (for instance) and gender ratios, or hygiene and women's health. This is an opportunity lost - the study could have benefitted from a more refined analysis of its data, and a pursual of hypotheses beyond the 'obvious.'


The TSMG doesn't claim to be a research body. But publishing results, seeking backing from various worthies, and presenting a report to the government must go hand in hand with some amount of reflection and a responsible use of data. Both of which seem to have been missing here, along with any kind of consideration for depth, complexity, and nuance. What were they thinking? Not very much.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's the Formula, Stupid!

A friend and I discussed Rajneeti briefly yesterday. He said he hadn't particularly liked the movie. I said I enjoyed it, primarily because I had gone into the theater with 'no expectations.' It's a phrase that rolls easily off the tongue, especially when discussing things true and terrible such as the Times of India, Chetan Bhagat's books, and that unique species of person known as the Indian politician. It was a throwaway comment, and it came to mind hours later in the way throwaway comments sometimes do. And I began to wonder - what exactly does that phrase mean? And why do we use it so often in the context of Bollywood?

I sometimes think that in this land of a million movies; of cinema that is 'art-house' and 'commercial'; of films from Bombay (as opposed to Maharashtra), Bihar, Jharkhand (yes!), Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka; Bengal; of audiences who are 'multiplexers,' and 'front-benchers,' 'Bollywood' has exemplified a certain movie-making ethos that combines glamour, drama, and self-indulgent emotionality. Generations of Indian have dreamt Bollywood-tinged dreams, and have been faithful devotees at the altar of the movies. 'Bollywood' movies were always made by the Punjabi-dominated Bombay studios. They were considered different from movies made in other regions – Calcutta had its movie-making maestros, and the Southern states their own superstars with cult appeal.

Over the years, Bollywood propagated its own 'filmi' aesthetic - drama that was colorful and larger than life; characters that were instantly recognizable and regularly over-the-top; settings that were lavishly mounted; music that varied widely in quality; plots that were at best fun spins on a well-loved formula, and at worst a paint-by-numbers mish-mash of incongruent elements. The best of these movies had great performances, memorable punch-lines, hummable music and ‘heart’ – that intangible quality which brought in audiences for weeks on end.

Today, Bollywood is a bit schizophrenic. There is Indie Bollywood – the Bollywood that caters to an (apparently) more discerning audience, is plot driven and hard-pressed to survive. It is territory into which stars will occasionally venture to earn credibility and National Awards. Then there is Masala Bollywood – treading the path of popular movies of decades past, with a few attempts at branching out and staying ‘current’. Blockbuster Bollywood, the preserve of a handful of male superstars, is in a league of its own. Lastly, let us not forget ‘Brainless Bollywood,’ a sub-genre that proudly proclaims that it makes no intellectual or even emotional demands on viewers. It’s gag-a-minute, disposable cinema. Of course these sub-genres overlap, and blockbusters are of all sorts.

I use these genres as heuristics. I develop a rough idea of what genre a movie belongs to, what it promises to deliver – and judge it accordingly. So I suppose it’s inaccurate to say that I watch a movie without expectations. It’s just that I formulate my expectations in the theatre; the moment I feel I know which ‘type’ the movie will conform to. I build caveats into my own movie-viewing experience, and it’s difficult to be disappointed because my expectations are always conservative. I never make the assumption that my expectations will be exceeded – it is enough that a movie goes through the motions in the manner dictated by its particular sub-genre.  

Rajneeti, for instance, had a fairly contrived plot which hinged on about 6 murders, 1 alleged rape, and 2 pregnancies – all in the course of a single chief ministerial election. A bit much, one would agree, even if we are talking about the Bihari badlands. Given that the characters are borrowed from the Mahabharata, they conformed to much beloved prototypes – the wily uncle, the villain, the friend who dies in vain. This characterization coupled with some very good acting, made the movie worthwhile. Given that a few elements exceeded my expectations, I automatically felt I had gotten a good deal – this was decent stuff, relatively speaking.

So when another friend asked me if I had found the movie problematic in any way, my answer was an emphatic ‘no.’ I hadn’t even bothered to consider Rajneeti in light of the issues it addressed. This is because masala Bollywood is not about issues – all the film-makers and actors go hoarse saying ‘Don’t accuse us of doing anything with a message!’ Anyone looking for ‘issues’ is supposed to go in for indie Bollywood. And to go soon, because that isn’t expected to last in the theaters for more than a week, tops.

As audience members, we’ve been trained not to have expectations, or to have only a certain set of expectations. Who are we to expect anyone to push the envelope? We knew what we were in for the moment we saw so-and-so’s mug on the poster. Brainless Bollywood, in particular, has turned scraping the bottom of the expectation barrel into an art form. I mean, did you come here expecting something like a plot from an Akshay Kumar movie? Or you know, acting? Come on! How stupid is that?

So it’s too much to ask that a movie is just, well, good – not good for an action movie, or good for a rom-com, or exactly what you’d expect from Salman Khan – but just plain vanilla good. And that’s problematic – if Bollywood is a valid form of expression, even art (don’t ask me who said that, but I know someone did), then shouldn’t it be expected to be of a certain standard? While a few film-makers, producers and actors are attempting to do things differently with varying degrees of success, most of them prefer to stick to type. Not that it’s working, given the spate of flops or mega-flops (I love the way analysts use this word!) Bollywood has experienced over the past couple of years. But that’s clearly the audience’s fault – we just don’t know a conformation to minimum standards when we see it. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

C(K)onundrums

Yesterday, I saw a billboard for 'Kreative Krafts' (at Haji Ali, if anyone's interested), and all of a sudden I realized, 'K' is the new 'C.' It's like 40s becoming the new 20s, only with alphabets.

Ks have been knocking Cs off their pedestals for some time now. In my experience, this dates back to the Swat Kats, crime-fighting felines from my school days. Even as a child, I understood almost instinctively that a cat could never be a kat, even though when my dad was in high school, being a 'cat' meant something.  Oddly enough, it was a compliment.

Perhaps this change has to do with physicality, because, let's face it, appearances are important. The 'k' stands tall in a way the 'c' simply can't. It seems bolder, stronger, ready to force itself into the world. The 'c', on the other hand, seems almost meek, crouching in on itself in a letter's approximation of the foetal position. It's also possible that the dominance of the 'k' reflects our common cultural preference for slim lines as opposed to round shapes. Numerologists would have us believe that alphabets can impact planetary positions, and consequently, our fates. But that's krazy talk!

It's only natural, therefore, that Bollywood is filled with Kapoors, Khans, and wannabe Kapurs and Khans. That heroes are named Karan. That the leading lady in Indian cinema today is Kat. That many immortal dialogues hinge on 'Kyon,' 'Kya,' 'Kahan,' and 'Kaise?'. That hit television shows begin with the letter K. And that K. Jo drinks koffee.

Clearly, kool is now the new cool. Its domination of our popular culture is complete. I would advise Cs in the other parts of the world to be very, very skared indeed.

Tag, You're It

What is reading all about? Expectations - the expectation that you will be amused, entertained or maybe enlightened, and come away happier, however fleetingly, for having read. I like books the way I like my ideas - elegant, precise and symmetrical. I believe in context, but also in containment. I expect a book to inhabit its' own world, close its' own loops and stand for itself. Which is why it annoyed me a little when some of the books I'd been reading over the past couple of months seemed to miss something. In spite of their 200 + page resplendence, and their fulsome-blurb-endowed certainty of self, these were books that filled in all the blanks. Bar one.

It occurred to me much later that at least 2 of these books made perfect sense when they were read in light of one another; the difference in content, literary styles and dates of publication notwithstanding. All of which led me to think about how ideas can work unexpectedly - bleeding into one another without muddying each other's waters.

And so I thought it would be interesting to attempt a literary 'tag,' an exploration of the unexpected and unlikely connections between books.


No Logo,’ by Naomi Klein

I must confess that I came to this book a little late in the day. When I was an undergraduate student, Klein was heralded as the anointed heir to Chomsky, and very many of the bright people on campus clutched copies of her book. In 'No Logo,' Klein focuses on the colonization of cultural and public spaces by brands. She also explores the exploitative and oppressive labor practices on which the sparkly edifices of brands are built. Klein portrays brands as being at the heart of personal, social and economic change.

Unfortunately, at a certain point, Klein's thesis begins to sound like a single-note statement of the obvious. To say that brands are 'everywhere' is a bit like saying 'technology is everywhere.' We can never be sure if this is for better or worse, and even if we were to be sure, that would be completely irrelevant. Brands, like technology, seem almost like essential elements of the globalized human condition - possibly ugly, but almost certainly unavoidable.


While most of Klein's research is painstaking and detailed, I remained dissatisfied with the exploration of the financial ascendancy of brands. Why (not how) did these intangible assets rapidly come to hold sway? Why did the preservation of the 'brand' come to legitimize lay-offs, restructurings, and the outsourcing of labor?

Weeks later, I found some of these answers in ‘Liar's Poker,’ by Michael Lewis. It’s a much lauded look at the world of investment banking, its hubris and excesses. Lewis traces the rise, the inner workings and the eventual decline of his firm, Salomon Brothers.


As you read the book, it becomes apparent that the rise of the bond industry and mortgage trading set the stage for a brand revolution. These developments changed the terms on which money could be made and companies would be run. Risk was commoditized and converted into a financial asset. Fairly profitable and low-profile companies were targeted by bankers for corporate takeovers. In some cases, these companies would be overhauled. In most cases, they were leveraged and stripped of their assets. The entire ethos of business and industry began to change.

It’s not surprising, then, that with ‘corporate raiders,’ (Lewis’ term, not mine) at the door, companies began reducing costs and clinging onto the brand as their last line of defense. The brand couldn’t be dissected into pieces and sold. It was an intangible entity that needed a certain amount of cohesion in order to survive. But the enabling factors behind the brand (facilities and production) could be sliced and diced, and so they were. Add to this the hysteria around Japanese production techniques, and globalization, and you have a recipe for brand building coupled with job flight.

Lewis deals with a tricky and potentially dull subject. After all, how many of us truly understand financial jargon, and how many of us are concerned about the financiers themselves? But he manages to remain self-deprecating and candid, and the book is consistently amusing (indeed, inhabited by characters such as ‘the Human Piranha,’ ‘Dash Riprock,’ ‘the Opportunist,’ and the omniscient ‘Alexander’ how can it fail to be?).

But Liar’s Poker is more than just a hatchet job on a former employer. It’s an engaging look at a specific psychology and culture, and also manages to decode the machinations of modern finance. If you’re looking for clever and unflinching ‘industry insights,’ look no further. If you’re looking for a how-to manual on negotiating your first banking job, you may just have found it.

But if the industry of interest is dog breeding, and if you’re likely to be content with insights that are more in the nature of musings, you should read ‘The Story of Edgar Sawtelle,’ by David Wroblewski.


Set in small town America, it charts the story of the Sawtelle family who breed a unique species of dogs – dogs reared for companionship, for intelligence and for personality. The Sawtelles - Gar, Trudy and their son Edgar - live the sort of bucolic life most of us fantasize about every once in a while. They have a large and beautiful farm, a successful dog-breeding business that they are passionate about, and dogs – many, many dogs – each with their own abilities and quirks. You know almost instantly that this self-contained and harmonious bubble is likely to burst. Enter Claude, Gar’s long-lost brother, who brings with him resentment, bitterness, betrayal and tragedy.

At the heart of the novel is Edgar, who seems unusually self-contained and observant. Edgar is mute, and communicates with his parents and his dogs using sign-language. He thinks of himself as a Mowgli-of-sorts, surrounded as he is all day by his canine companions and a dog who ‘bears the imprint of his soul,’ Almondine. Edgar truly believes in the mission of their kennel, to help breed dogs that are capable of making choices and therefore engaging with the world in distinctive and meaningful ways.

I personally found the relationship between Almondine and Edgar to be the most compelling part of this book. It isn’t surprising that Edgar, the protagonist has a vivid personality and voice, but so does Almondine. This is a book that requires patience – it takes time to grow on you, but stick with it and you will find yourself being genuinely moved. 
                                             

Reviewers have highlighted the links between Hamlet and Edgar Sawtelle. Another key influence is Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Jungle Books,’ a collection of stories about the boy-wolf Mowgli, his adventures his companions.


I’m still reading the second book, but it is already apparent that Kipling had an astonishing imagination and more importantly, an astonishing ear for local conversation and dialect. I think dialect is at the heart of the Jungle books – all the people and animals featured here are memorable not only because of what they say, but how they say it. Mongooses sound suitably mongoose-y; panthers – pantherish; wolves, wolfish; jackals, sly and snakes, sibilant.

It’s almost as if Kipling created these characters from the outside in, using inflexions of speech to flesh out the character and personality of each animal. Surprisingly, I found Mowgli to be the clumsiest character in the stories – but perhaps his inconsistencies and unconvincing dialogues are a result of his circumstances.

Add to the potent linguistic mix the verse that companies each chapter, and the sonorous tone of the Jungle Law, and I’m ready to forgive this particular burra-sahib all the colonial chips on his shoulder.
   

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Flights of Fancy

Late last night, I found myself thinking about Tagore and his incredible ability to embrace multiple media - I began wondering about how his ideas regarding aesthetics would accommodate blogs, tumblr, Twitter. Would he have engaged with these forms? To what end? A couple of tangential leaps of late-night logic later, I began speculating about what my favorite artists (all deceased, bar one) would have to say about Twitter. Or on it. This is my attempt at channelling the voices of the late and great, tongue wedged firmly in cheek.

Da Vinci: Update: painted the masterpiece. Between dissecting corpses, drawing diagrams, inventing things, looking good.

Magritte: Spotted: Gigantic furry green apple. Feeling: Lingering sense of menace. WTF!

Warhol: 15 minutes AND 140 characters?

Seurat: Pixellations

Mondrian: __________ .._______ .....___

Pollock: It's less about the tweet than the act of stabbing at my keyboard. Just so.

Picasso: They sa        my          twe         ok  off
                         y                          ets   lo

Gaugain: Bright light, pretty women, tropical landscapes. Tahiti - inspiration guaranteed.

Monet: Painting water lilies. Again. The light changes, really!

Raza: ....o O O O O o....

And to round them off, one important critic and philosopher on aesthetics -
Coomaraswamy: I'd encourage us to privilege the tweeple over the individual tweeter.

Well, that was fun.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

New Myths, Old Stories

I just finished reading one of Pratchett's installments from the Discworld series - Witches Abroad. It's a book about the power of narrative, about how stories develop their own mystical pull and manifest themselves repeatedly, across time and space. Legends abound with younger sons who have always gone on quests their elder brothers couldn't complete, step-mothers who have terrorized step-daughters, and exiled heirs to thrones. We know intuitively that particular stories will play out in predictable ways -the pleasure lies in discovering precisely how the pieces fall into place.

The power of narrative is one of Pratchett's key themes, and he alludes to it often. In this particular work, an evil witch (in and of herself an instantly recognizable character) attempts to harness the power of narrative by 'feeding people to stories.' Her subjects' interests are subsumed to the greater good of story - they must fulfill narrative expectations or pay with their lives.

The book is a decent read, although not one I'd particularly recommend. But it did set me thinking about the pull stories continue to exert, even in our frantic, post-modern/ post-historical/ post-nationstate age. Of course we all grow up with, and into roles that are gendered, raced and shaped by religion and income. That's the enormously complex process of socialization, which continues to remain widely discussed and debated.

But I'm more interested in the nascent urban 'types' that we are beginning to conform to as young adults - Singletons, Yuppies, DINKs, SINKs. Relatively new professions are spawning their own stereotypes - the terms 'investment banker,' 'new media professional,' and 'yoga instructor' are loaded with their own sub-text, their own implicit expectations regarding personality and behavior. They are the new prototypes animating our collective urban consciousness; the stuff of jokes; the stock characters that are increasingly peopling young authors' fictional landscapes.

It's also apparent to me that these 'types' are becoming enmeshed in stories that are developing their own momentum. We've all heard about the dotcom millionaire, the engineer-turned-consultant-turned-salvation seeker, the entrepreneur-turned-volunteer, the lawyers-who-found-love-working-late, and more recently, the banker-turned-broke.

It's fun, this urban myth-making. But I sometimes wonder whether our choices are being shaped in some way by these new narratives. Are they defining the new standards of worth and success? Are they allowing us to make assumptions about where our choices will lead? Are they influencing our ideas about what constitutes acceptable behavior? My answer to these questions would be 'Yes.' If one can today contemplate an extended stint working at an NGO, an inter-racial marriage, or living in multiple countries within a short span of years, it's because these are now part of the fabric of 'urban narrative.'

But traditional stories continue to hold sway, encouraging us to get good jobs, to get married, to have one child before 30 and then the second.

Perhaps that's what stories come down to - expectations, and the making of conventions. Perhaps our generation is unique in having to navigate our lives while wedged in between narratives old and new - an ancient culture and a young economy. But perhaps this is the story that all generations tell about themselves. And so it goes on...

Caveats - I'm speaking here in the context of a newly resurgent economy, one that has come to the 'Capitalistism & Consumerism' party fairly late, but looks like it might linger for a while. Also, narratives are about relevance and experience - those that I've discussed almost necessarily apply to a subset of city-dwellers.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Subverting the Secret

Like any self-respecting Psychology student, I nurture a healthy skepticism for pop psychology. I set my teeth on edge and veer away every time I see self-help books in a bookstores' Psychology section. But several months ago, a phenomenon called 'The Secret' swept through the world, and I decided it was time to tumble off my high horse and see what the fuss was all about. So I purchased and perused this book, determined to keep my mind open and my misgivings at bay.

It's easy to see why the 'Secret' worked - it basically states that love, money, success, health and happiness are essentially by-products of the positive energy and thoughts one releases into the universe. Think about them, believe you have them, behave as if they're yours, and they are. Experience misgivings or doubt, and they're out of your reach. This theory can extend beyond specific wants and desires and be applied to everyday behavior. Believe that you're happy, fulfilled, calm and content - and you will be. Allow for dissatisfaction, restlessness and sorrow, and that's your lot.

On the face of it, the 'Secret' is simply a call-to-arms for positive thinkers everywhere. There is credible evidence to show that re-framing situations in positive terms is helpful. While circumstances may outwardly remain the same, positive thinking helps people perceive situations as being more manageable, and opens up possibilities for action and resolution that they would otherwise rule out. A changed orientation can significantly impact how people navigate their lives, by making them more flexible and adaptive. Which is precisely why counselors and therapists devote considerable energy to re-adjusting their clients' negative thinking patterns. Moreover, most of us are comforted by the idea that we can change how we feel by simply tweaking how we think. 'Positive thinking' has an aura of common-sense pragmatism about it. It helps us feel more in charge and better able to cope.

Looked at superficially, then, it's difficult to find fault with the 'Secret.' One would imagine that it's a well-meaning book, read by well-intentioned people who are simply looking to improve their quality of life.

On closer examination, however, the 'Secret' essentially posits that our quality of life is all about choice - we attract to us the things, people, events and circumstances that we choose to. This is termed the 'Law of Attraction' and it is extremely problematic. It fails to take into account the fact that millions of people are trapped in situations - war, disaster, disease and poverty - that are not of their making. The author refuses to admit that not all circumstances can be wished away. Even more dubious is the explicit corollary that as per the 'Law,' we unwittingly wish crises and loss upon ourselves by thinking negatively. This rather glib assertion manages to be both politically incorrect and decidedly insensitive.

The 'Secret' also encourages readers to maintain their positive-thinking equilibrium by insulating themselves from bad moods (anger, impatience, sorrow), difficult people (those who are experiencing anger, impatience, sorrow) and 'bad news' (any coverage of their communities or of the world that isn't categorically pleasant). The image this brings to mind is of a harried Secret-neophyte, trying frantically to be unequivocally happy and tamping down on any suggestion that she isn't.

It's also important to note that in spite of posturing as prescribed modes of thinking and behaving, the 'Secret' and the 'Law' are impossible to put to the test. Both come with an in-built escape hatch. Any flawed or undesirable results can be attributed to imperfect implementation - thoughts that weren't positive enough, or vibes that weren't 'good.'

The 'Secret' is potent in that it offers DIY, low-effort deliverance, 21st century style. It takes wishful thinking to a new level and advocates wishful behavior, making miracle workers of us all. A nuanced reading of the book, or a questioning of its assumptions is construed as negativity and therefore, a 'setting-up' for failure.

But why am I discussing this book now, when months have passed since my reading it? It's because I am frequently reminded of the dangers of entitlement - whether it is in the damage we do to our environment, the excesses of our consumption, our disinterest in issues of import, our intolerance of failure (student suicides come to mind). In a culture that's always on the hunt for 'more for less,' the Secret is a dangerously beguiling promise.
 
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