The Water is Rising….send sunflowers!

A post of just collected flotsam and jetsam that is floating around out there….wherever ‘there’ is exactly.

I recently was reading through facebook — and found a thread on the posting of affirmations. The seemingly endless stream of sunflower photos, or memes on positive thinking (if life gives you lemons, make lemonade etc). The predictable response to the original complaint was to defend these memes, and to reinforce this belief (very much a US phenomenon I think) that life is about YOU and YOUR happiness, and that if only people would ‘think positive’ everything would magically improve. Its really that, a form of magical thinking.

What is interesting is how “magical thinking” is presented in the western media as the province of the backward and poor (for example Haiti) :

US Soldiers in Haiti, circa 1930…

One of the tropes in western Imperialism is that of paternalism. The meme is that “we” are there to help.
The reality is that tens of millions throughout the world live in dire poverty. Live in a state of day to day brute existence. A daily life of absolute subjugation.

The western form of magical thinking — when one thinks of it — is usually associated with Christian televangelists or tea party loons. In fact, it is present in the endless stream of “affirmations” and “pictures of sunflowers” and “smiling babies” one encounters on facebook.

But another thought surfaced for me, as I sat watching some episode of a recent US TV cop show….and that is that the police MUST by design, be corrupt. They are built to be corrupt for they are there to protect the property of the elite landowning class. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina serves as a template for this. “Looters” were shot well before anyone was rescued or given food. Of course most of those in need of rescue and food and clean water were poor and black.

Instead of posting sunflowers, it might be more relevant to post:


The spectacle, however, is very good at neutralizing such realities. And in the first photo, there is a smiling black child….a favorite meme for the paternalistic west. This is suddenly poverty porn, a form of voyeurism. The second photo is of the Dhravi slums, made famous in the odious Danny Boyle film Slumdog Millionaire. Its a liberal poverty tourism that instantly is put in play.

Still, in a nation, where 7 of 10 prisoners are either black or brown (and all poor, of any color), in a prison population the largest in the history of the world, its worth considering just what “sunflowers” are supposed to mean? What “positive thinking” is supposed to mean.

Continuing with Black Agenda Report:

The paternalism expresses itself as a desire for reform. However, in a nation where education is now so deteriorated and where access to good education so limited (partly for lack of good teachers) its not surprising that the ‘affirmation’ meme has gained such traction. Reform means the white liberal doesn’t need to give up his or her privilege, but change means one might.

Here is a recent Cockburn note on the Balkans….

It seemed a few years ago, that the original US State Dept. narrative on the Balkans had been successfully debunked….but today, judging from my recent forays on facebook, that the original propaganda is back in place, stronger than ever. Education, police, magical thinking.

The work on this subject by Diana Johnstone, Ed Herman, and Michael Parenti is all but forgotten.

The poor know reform doesn’t work. They know the celebrities at the local soup kitchen on Thanksgiving, dont want any real change. They are not fooled by corporate media. They can’t help but know the truth for they live that truth.

I grew up in a welfare family. It was highly dysfunctional. That dysfunction is another meme…part of the paternalistic helping hand. It is always emphasized however. Its always “we” must break the circle of….{fill in blank}. Not change the conditions that create such egregious inequality, but just offer an occasional band aid. The stigma of being poor never leaves one. Trust me. The stigma of class. Of “needing” help. Even on the cultural level, grants and awards are a form of this. It never leaves the narrative… NEEDED help. Now, don’t get me wrong, I for one was very happy to get grants and money. But I was also aware the institutional framework had identified me as someone in ‘need’.


  1. Well that was great. I want to rant on about the amazing hypocrisy of the imagined team West claiming “rationality” – such a superstitious society, reading horoscopes in fashion magazines and b elieving the most absurd stories that are passed off as explanations for the latest adventure to rescue the oompa loompas.

    And even today Hegel the complete meshuggener is worshipped and studied by people claiming to be rational and reasonable…it’s like some Star Trek Episode.

    In Susan Buck-Morss 90% valid 10% poison work on Hegel and Haiti, she gushes about how there was this great historical moment of human advancement, of clarity;, when some Polish soldiers in the French Imperial army refused an order to slaiughter hundreds of unarmed captives, including women and children. It’s another aren’t these white men marvellous, they invented the idea of not mass slaughtering innocent people! IThe kimplication of course is either that the lucky spared prisoners have no minds at all, are just extras in this Edward Zwick picture, or that they were accustomed to slauughtering children by the hundreds and had to be taught by the evolved whites that this is not always okay.

  2. Fanny Rice says:

    Angelina Jolie is very attractive and thin and isn’t that all that matters in America? (PS. She is not thin because she is starving but because she chooses to be thin.)

  3. The idea that you are supposed to be “happy” all the time is directly related to the fer and repression of critical thought.

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