There are some wellness, crystal-gazing, holistic spiritual guidance types in my disaster-hit coastal community who insist that the power of positive thinking will overcome the physical and material damages incurred by the community. They object to restrictions on road travel even though the damages caused by slips and water run-off is extensive and as of yet only stop-gap repaired. Heck, we do not even have traffic controls on our one lane muddy slip-ridden exit and entryways!
Although these self-absorbed navel gazers are a distinct minority they are very loud and bullying, with some using their historic roots in this neck of the woods as justification for shouting down everyone else. Apparently tenure (as in multigenerational living in this place as opposed to “newcomers” like me who have been here 24 years) means that they know best for all residents and their views are not be challenged. A few of these wunderkind have rarely left this isolated valley except for local forays or limited ventures further outside their co coons, giving them a somewhat limited perspective on the big bad world out there–and how to cope with unfamiliarity and difference of perspective and thought. And then there are the few that are associated with or support anti-vaccination and conspiracy theory weirdness.
However, because some are very adept at doing things like community volunteerism in between their yoga sessions and self-realization seminars, they feel they have the authority to speak over everyone else about almost everything. Democratic notions of compromise and consensus in decision-making are ignored in favor of a “our way or the highway” approach with plenty of vitriol added into the mix (which belies the “positive psychology” facade). They speak of serving the collective good–and some of them do–but they are not interested in collective input into their closed circle decision-making. There is a certain provincialism to their leadership claims and their refusal to listen to different opinions, much less opposing views. Trouble is, some also happen to well placed as cogs in our civil defense and resilience networks.
As the saying goes, times of crisis brings out the best and worst in people as well as expose the Peter Principle when it comes to levels of incompetence in public agencies. To this can be added, unfortunately, the fact that one particular skillset does not always translate easily into other fields of endeavor. In this case that fact appears to have been lost on the provincial know-it-all crowd and it now seems that these folk have crossed a line of toleration vis a vis the larger whanau with some of their obstructive and self-serving antics. This is dividing the community just as we are finally getting a semblance of normality to some parts of it (other than the roads and ruined homes). It is disappointing and discouraging because it has caused simmering divisions amongst people torn between family and friendship ties with the know-it-alls and the practical realities of the wider community’s real pressing needs..
That is where the know-it-all appeals to positive psychology fall flat. They want us to stay calm, bite our tongues and carry on following their pop psychological wellness healing Tik Tok-depth advice. In other words, everyone should think good thoughts, the contagion effect will apply, and everything will be alright.
To which I have one response.
The promise of positive psychology ends where the laws of physics begin.
Like on dangerous roads.