Self-Help Books

21Mar09

by The Great White Gypsy

People are sheep.

There, I said it.  Now, one on one, most people show some level of common sense and understanding.  I cannot even separate myself from this accusation, as I am part of the masses, and display the standard sheep-like tendencies from time to time.  However, it’s all about the shepherd; your leader defines you as a sheep.  Some people are actually lemmings in sheep’s clothing.  Some are donkeys.  And some, unfortunately, are overturned turtles in disguise.  These are the people that gravitate towards the self-help section of Barnes and Noble.

Last year, after I had just gone through a particularly painful breakup, my best friend wanted to make me feel better.  “Here, I got you something,” he said, and handed me a copy of The Art of Seduction.  For those of you who have never seen this book, it is a Sun Tzu-style battle plan for getting women.  I’m sure the author was serious in writing it, but my friend gave it to me as a joke, and that is how it was received.  Yes, I read a few excerpts here and there, but for novelty purposes; it is bullshit.

A couple months ago, I was in Washington for a friend’s wedding.  The night of the bachelor party, several of us had to crash at a friend’s house.  He is a strange, crazy, possibly retarded guy who thinks he is the shit, which is why we were all out until 6am and no one got laid.  In the morning, fighting a J-box hangover, I wandered into this guy’s “office”.  Similar to the rest of his apartment, it was barely furnished (I thought he’d just moved in, turned out he’d been there for a year).  A large desk supporting a small laptop, a rack of DVD’s, and a bookshelf was all the room contained.  On this bookshelf, there were two books.  One of them was a Donald Trump book on how to be a millionaire.  The other?  The Art of Seduction.

Ow…my heart.

The term “Self-Help Book” is, to me, semantically infuriating.  I’m not talking about informational books, like “Wine for Dummies”, or How-To books by Bob Villa.  I’m talking about those books that teach you how to reach your full potential, how to earn $200,000 a year, how to pick up chicks, how to communicate with yourself in the ether using a drinking straw, a paper clip, and a rubber band.

Let’s talk English for a second.  Self-Help implies that you help yourself.  You improve yourself.  If you make a mean comment about yourself, you are self-deprecating.  If someone else makes a mean comment about you, it’s an insult.  If you cut your thigh with a razorblade, it’s self-mutilation.  If someone else does it…it’s just rude.  So why is it referred to as “self-help” when you are reading about someone else’s life, having someone else tell you what to do to be successful and happy?

People are sheep.

They have no accountability, no direction, they always need someone to follow, someone’s direction.  You want to know how to make a shitload of money?  Go to college, get a Masters, and do your fucking best at your job.  Write a book, paint something, write a song, make a film, invest in the stock market.  Patent a fucking snuggie.  If you can’t do any of these things, chances are there is neither a lot of money, nor any Tooty-fucking-Fruity in your fucking future.  If you’re not happy, ask yourself why, don’t ask someone else unless they have a framed diploma and a post-modern couch in their office.  Do you really think these are benevolent books?  90% of these authors want to tell you just enough to keep you buying their books, because, check this out:  The people telling you how to make money are making money by writing books about how to make money.  Get it?  Donald Trump is not going to give you a surefire way to become a millionaire.  Not only does he have no understandable motive for this, but don’t you think if any Joe-Six-pack with fourteen dollars and ninety-five cents plus tax in his pocket could be a millionaire that easily, they would?  If Chatty Kathy at the coffee shop was capable of predicting the future and tapping into the universe, why is she sitting at a coffee shop at 3pm on a fucking Wednesday?  Because reading her self-help book at home doesn’t prove to anyone that she’s becoming a person; now she’s a sheep and a hipster.

Call me a cranky elitist, call me a prick, but this really does make me sad.  This is a society that has killed God and resurrected him in the form of Iphones and reality TV.  Modern man has disconnected and attempted to form a complete social structure within himself; the hero archetype is all but dead.  People are supposed to think that they are powerful, that they have only to tap into their potential to be successful, to listen to themselves for happiness.  But we can’t handle it, we have to have someone to tell us what to do, or we wander around the planet with no ambition, no direction.  People put their noses up at organized religion, claiming that God is a parental figure they don’t need; they are in charge of their lives.  They make the decisions.  Then, they make the decision to walk into Borders, and when they walk out, they carry under their arm the advice of someone they’ve never met, about things they didn’t know they cared about…

…and it breaks my fucking heart.

 

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