Little gems from Barbara Ehrenreich

I was checking in with some favorite blogs this morning, and through a thoughtful post by Lisa Factora-Borchers at Flip Flopping Joy and My Ecdysis, was referred to this great interview with Barbara Ehrenreich.I’m not going to make any big arguments about it right now, I just think she says some really important things (from a patient perspective, and an activist perspective) that relate to so many of the
issues we’ve often discussed here: health, obviously, and lifestyle advice; class
and money; social change, etc.I hope you all find it interesting as well.

Author: noraneedles

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  1. Hey Nora, thanks for posting this.

    As I read Nickel and Dimed, I felt that everyone should read this book.  At the same time, I wondered about the robustness of the author’s health. (Me being such a nutrition freak, you’re not surprised, are you?)  So I’m glad to hear from her again, sorry that she’s up against this, and in agreement with much of what she says, even though a lot of my personal M.O. looks to be “positive thinking”.  Someone years ago made a similar comment, but forgive me, I can’t remember who it was.

    I think she has a point.  And that P.T. appeals to those who don’t want to do the research and soul-searching to uncover the real causes of diseases and poverty and bad karma and in turn act to change the course of events.

    I don’t think a single one of us could survive if we kept that “Positive Attitude” because our boundaries would collapse.  So if I get a patient who doesn’t want to follow clinic rules but insists on being a patient, am I going to be Positive about them?  You bet, but they’ll have to continue their evolution in another clinic.  I have to run now, hope you get an interesting discussion going here.

  2. Level playing field

    I think that so much of what Barbara touches on in this interview and Michael Moore tries to do with his latest piece is try to move us out of our rosy complacency by suggesting that positive thinking would make a lot more sense if we were dealing with a level playing field.It is easy to blame people for their lot when their ” attitude ” got them there.If every family could wake up with basic health care affordable, good schools in their neighborhoods, a decent wage for a decent days work etc etc etc then the playing field would be just a little more level and positive thinking could enhance efforts by the individual to better his lot.So of course could “realistic” pragmatic thinking !! 

    For our patients it is about lifestyle advice that doesnt assume financial access to fresh fruits and veges and expensive supplements and herbs.

    It is our ability to say back to a patient talking about these stresses that it is not necessarily their fault that their wages are flat while their premiums are rising ,that  their job is precarious and that the fact that they are just not coping that well with all that, that those feelings are perfectly normal.It is our ability to make our clinics supportive of anxiety as a perfectly sane response to  the hardships of this recession.So many of the” positive” smiles that walk into my clinic are hiding really huge personal stresses brought on by  this accelerating economic polarization.


  3. I have mixed feelings.

    The first time I heard this positive thinking stuff, I did associate it with blaming the victim.  In fact, there is a really disgusting section of The Secret where the author blames war on the peoples’ bad attitudes.On the other hand, the mind-body connection exists.  And, it’s free.  So, at least in the health realm, harnessing the power of positive thinking can actually be empowering for lower income people.I also think that Americans (and us working class people in particular) are more realists than Ehrenreich gives us credit for.  So, I appreciate her broaching the issue, but I don’t entirely agree with her analysis.

  4. thanks everybody

    …for your comments.  I think this is one of those things that is complicated, because people might think one way and feel another way (i.e. they might know rationally that it’s not their fault that they got cancer or lost their job due to “downsizing,” but they might feel still *feel* guilty or ashamed – and in fact they might feel bad for the gap between their feelings and their more “rational” thoughts.)  There’s also that real gap between what individuals can do for themselves, and what folks need to get together to be able to do.  I imagine the book has a more in-depth, subtle analysis (being, well, book-length).  We’ll have to see.  Apparently she’s on the Daily Show tonight, for those of you who have cable (I’ll be watching it on the internets tomorrow).