This is how to make yourself available and rich in US culture.
Yahoo News asked best-selling author Jen Sincero why so many people aren’t rich. Her answer tells us a lot about US culture today.
“I find that in my own life and with the people I’ve been coaching, when people make the decision to get rich, they’re available to do things that are outside of their comfort zones and stretch themselves.”
Describing how once upon a time she was “always broke,” she tells us that she then “decided that I was unavailable to live my life with that reality, so I decided to change it.”
Here is today’s 3D definition:
Ready to violate your conscience and sense of social responsibility by casting aside inherited scruples
A standard dictionary defines availability as “The quality of being able to be used or obtained.” This describes merchandise or raw materials. A secondary definition is the “state of being otherwise unoccupied” and, therefore, free to be used by another agent for a different purpose. A third definition refers to “sexual or romantic relationships.” Sincero’s definition doesn’t seem to fit any of those three.
Sincero demonstrates an even more astonishing level of creativity with her use of the word unavailable. If available in her language means detaching oneself from the bother of moral imperatives, unavailable appears paradoxically to mean unwilling (“unavailable to live my life with that reality”). This is odd because the standard notion of available designates a passive state, one in which the thing or person that is available can be acted upon by an outside force.
With her use of both available and unavailable, Sincero projects herself as a passive element that is ready to be manipulated by other forces. We may then understand that the external force she is talking about and recommends is very simply greed, which for her — as it was for Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko — can only be “good.” But the way she presents it, greed is no longer the result of internal motivation. For Sincero, it resembles a form of possession. She is literally making herself the instrument of the passion of greed, which of course in former times people classed as one of the seven deadly sins.
Sincero recommends liberating oneself from any felt attachment to the ideas, ideals, moral restraints and guidelines that societies tend to impose on the entire community. In other words, culture itself. To describe the recommended process, she uses the metaphor of “stretching.” This in itself is interesting since its most common metaphoric use can be found in the phrase “stretching the truth.”
Sincero’s originality fails to go beyond her semantic innovation with the notion of availability. In her discourse and presumably in her books, she simply repeats the themes that have always have been floating around in popular US culture for well over a century.
Self-help books and inspirational messages encouraging personal enrichment, from the book trade to the media and even megachurches, have become a staple of the economy. They endlessly repeat the values of self-reliance, control, the power of the will and the belief in the freedom of markets (alongside its often unfortunate but unnamed consequence: the slavery or subjugation of people without means). They proclaim the need to replace social solidarity and community morality — which produce no “tangible” short-term or monetary benefit — by compliance with the law, in accordance with Milton Friedman’s “fundamental principle.” From Horatio Alger Jr. to Ayn Rand (“the virtue of selfishness”) and Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking), Sincero does little more than recycle the long-standing and tired myths and shibboleths of US culture.
But Sincero’s notion of availability deserves our attention. It highlights the inversion of the traditional religious orientation that many, especially rich Americans, claim to be the source of the nation’s success. She counsels us to wake up because “in our subconscious we think money is the root of all evil.” The phrase comes not from “our subconscious,” but from St. Paul’s letter to Timothy. It specifically reminds the reader of how outside forces — in particular, the passion of greed — can take over our wills and use us like an available piece of merchandise or raw material.
She has thus stood the ideal of the “self-made” man or woman on its head. Rather than making one’s identity or realizing one’s true self — a common theme in this genre of literature — Sincero recommends “embodying the feeling” of an imaginary wealthy individual and “acting like that kind of person” even before having the means to do so. In other words, allow yourself to be possessed by greed, after which you can make “real, real decisions.” Your former decisions presumably weren’t quite real. She defines the technique: “Visualize and get emotional,” become “the person you desire to be. Scare yourself. Feel terrified.”
Possession indeed! And afterwards, if things don’t go as planned, you will have the perfect excuse: “The devil made me do it.”
*[In the age of Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain, another American wit, the journalist Ambrose Bierce, produced a series of satirical definitions of commonly used terms, throwing light on their hidden meanings in real discourse. Bierce eventually collected and published them as a book, The Devil’s Dictionary, in 1911. We have shamelessly appropriated his title in the interest of continuing his wholesome pedagogical effort to enlighten generations of readers of the news.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.