We owe Barbara Enrenrich a debt, for two things: her autobiographical work on the cultures cult like insistence on over the top enthusiastic cheerfulness at all times (see her book Bright-sided). And for her books about what it’s like to live poor.
Her recent op-ed on the currently popular meme that gratitude it the key to happiness (in the New York Times) brings those together. I’m embarrassed not to have presumed something I’m reveals:
Perhaps it’s no surprise that gratitude’s rise to self-help celebrity status owes a lot to the conservative-leaning John Templeton Foundation. At the start of this decade, the foundation, which promotes free-market capitalism, gave $5.6 million to Dr. Emmons, the gratitude researcher. It also funded a $3 million initiative called Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude through the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, which co-produced the special that aired on NPR. The foundation does not fund projects to directly improve the lives of poor individuals, but it has spent a great deal, through efforts like these, to improve their attitudes.
One of my joke startup ideas: A chain of bookstores that offer to provide literature in service of any point you wish to make. These stores would also let you select how you want your point made. “Ah yes sir, you would like to show that the poor should be more grateful to their betters. Would you like that in the form of a novel? Or possibly a anthropological treatise?” “…” “Ah yes sir, we can arrange a bespoke social scientist, no problem at all.