The world around us – through holiday stories, songs, animated movies, TV shows, sweet little homilies delivered to us daily in every medium — teaches us about automatic happy endings, happily-ever-afters, free gifts delivered for the price of being “good,” all sorts of magical happy inevitabilities, all of which will come to us as we relax and live our lives.
But it never teaches us those things AREN’T automatically true. We’re left to figure out on our own that there’s no Santa, no Care Bears, no Tooth Fairy.
So we’re ACTIVELY programmed to believe in magic and happy accidents, but at no point ACTIVELY taught to stop believing in it. With our untrained young minds, we have to muddle through that lesson on our own.
The result being that many of us never really figure it out. Sure, we stop believing in the actual existence of Santa, but few of us can resist continuing to believe “something good will happen if I just think happy thoughts and Be Good.” If we all just love, and smile, and treat each other with compassion and understanding.
I suspect the reason immigrants excel in America is not specifically because they’re willing to work hard and save money and expect their kids to do well in school. They do well because they come out of a different culture. They don’t believe, as we do — they were never taught, as we are — that good things automatically happen. They don’t have our cultural tsunami of friendly talking teddy bears and magical wishes. They know the truth – that success of any sort comes only with unrelenting, hard-ass work.
And they’re HAPPY to do that work, because it DOES bring success. They can see it working around them and, unblinded by messages that say you don’t have to try very hard, you just have to wish and believe, they work, and think, and plan, and never stop.
I’ve wondered many times if anything good really came out of the 60s, and the only thing I can think of is that all that “Give Peace A Chance” business MIGHT have had something to do with stopping the Vietnam War. But following that … nothing. No peace. No better vision of the future. No new direction. A legacy of drug use, sexually transmitted diseases, and the eventual social idiocy of tattooing, piercing and sagging pants.
(Yes, some good music came out of that era’s musical experimentation. But there was also a HUGE amount of musical garbage, and a great deal of sloppy, crappy, talentless art, both of which continue to this day.)
(Another MIGHT be: The environmental movement MIGHT BE related, remotely, to the 60s “revolution.”)
Worse, we ended up with a disdain for older cultural beliefs, such as the value — the necessity! — of education and hard work.
Worse again, the “good things will happen” mindset – which certainly led into both the Vietnam and Iraq wars, both of which disappointed us with failure – made us draw in and indulge in even more fantasy thinking. Hey, we didn’t lose those wars, we WON them. Those were great VICTORIES. We kept the world SAFE. Our brave warriors were triumphant HEROES. We SUPPORT the troops! Anybody who disagrees is a TRAITOR. (And of course George W. Bush was a GREAT LEADER.)
Worse again AGAIN, it made us even more susceptible to mass manipulation, paving the way for the lies of FOX News and company. Hey, if people refuse to see the real world, why not make some money off their fantasies? Don’t stop believing, people! Just tune in and we’ll keep feeding you!
So here we are in the years 2000, facing a great mess of challenges. Such as the fact that there are 7.4 billion humans out there, eating and burning their way through Earth’s remaining wealth. Ocean ecosystems are collapsing. Species are vanishing at an accelerating rate. The very atmosphere is changing for the worse.
And we’re thinking our happy, hopeful, magical thoughts. Something Good will happen, if we just earnestly and fervently WISH and PRAY for it. Frosty the Snowman will appear under that magical top hat, Santa will fly in on his sleigh, and wrapped presents — Labor Saving Robots! Immortality! Artificial Intelligence! Saved Ecosystems! A World Full of Fat, Happy Babies! Infinite Free Energy! — will fall down the chimney and land under the tree.