The Inspirational Bandwagon

“The inspirational bandwagon” is my personal term for the millions of books, films, podcasts, speaking tours and, yes, WordPress blog posts that preach an upbeat theology in which everybody’s life is automatically great as long as we all put on rose-colored glasses. It’s a bandwagon because positivity is a major selling point. People naturally seek out what makes them feel good, so upbeat writing will draw more customers than the alternative, especially if the upbeat writing is packaged like a magical snake-oil formula that automatically makes good things happen. Lots of people are sincere in their positive and upbeat messages, sometimes because their own lives really are wonderful and they therefore can’t imagine anyone else’s life being bad, or because they think they’ve found a magical formula for happiness that either does or will work personally for them and want to share the glad tidings. Most of the time, however, inspirational bandwagoneering is intended to create some personal benefit for the person doing the inspiring rather than the many people who will hopefully buy the inspiring message. Writers of self-help books couldn’t care less whether the people who buy those books are able to help themselves; those writers just want to make money. At the other end, authors of WordPress blogs with inspirational and self-help messages couldn’t care less whether readers are inspired and help ourselves; those authors want to boost their search engine rankings so they can later make money off an established public profile.

I look at inspirational bandwagoneering with some disgust for various reasons. One is the fact that being upbeat is a socially required trope of public speech (and see my last post below for more on public speech). Nearly anything said publicly is a false front for a hidden, underlying reality that is far different from the public appearance.

Another reason I don’t like inspirational bandwagoneering is that it’s often banal and secondhand parroting of Hollywood movie tropes. Rarely does an inspirational and self-help speaker or writer say anything that hasn’t already been said a million times by other people over the last ten years. That’s partly why it’s so lucrative. People want the comfort of the familiar, so the same movies get made over and over again every year, and moviegoers still go to watch them despite having seen them dozens of times. But inspirational and self-help messages aren’t movies. They purport to be ways of helping people take steps to have better lives. In that way, they are false and disingenuous, and anything false is automatically pernicious.

I also can’t stand inspirational bandwagoneering because it’s purely marketing-driven. The vast majority of inspirational and self-help people put out their dross, not to help their fellow human, but in order to maximize their public brand for the sake of making money either now or in the future. It’s not that they really think their message will help anyone; it’s that they want to USE the rest of us in order to fatten their wallets.

Luckily, the inspirational bandwagon is extremely overcrowded, with millions of inspirational messages being peddled like snake oil each year. In that vast crowd jostling for the same limited market, success is unlikely simply because of the math of too many sellers and not enough buyers. The inspirational bandwagoneers are wasting their time. Given their frequent dishonesty and lack of good faith, it serves them right.

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