Dear “Positive Vibes Only,”
Look at you, you’re everywhere. You’re really having a minute. Inscribed on the moisture-wicking tank tops of upper-class yoga practitioners; cropping up in the captions of Instagram wellness models; peppered into the mission statements of for-profit organizations. You’re like the I VOTED sticker for people with privilege and unwavering levels of serotonin, and here’s why I’m going to need you to die:
There are many things that the power of positive thought can’t band-aid let alone fix right now. Things like pervasive social structural injustice, economic disparity, stagnant job markets, the prohibitive cost of healthcare, sexism, Nazism, global warming, shuttering libraries, disappearing bees, diminished attention spans, endemic loneliness, the opioid crisis, the misogyny of the president, recklessly armed citizens, the Kardashians, Oreo Thins, pre-teens eating Tide Pods etc.
And YOU, a cognitive bias posturing as a catchphrase that’s screen-printed on every viable surface, aren’t doing jack to solve any of it. You’re a passive little phrase engineered to move merch and you’re missing the dang point.
At best “Positive Vibes Only” sounds like a poorly branded free clinic. At worse, it makes disengaging from reality in favor of wishful thinking a lifestyle aspiration, which in 2018 is just mother-effing dangerous. The semantics of “PVO” doesn’t just pollute more tinder bios than I can swipe a thumb at, but far worse it rejects diversity of opinion and experience from the Rightfully Sad. Depressed Folk. Marginalized Folk. Trying Folk. Folk who are navigating tremendous amounts of suffering and trauma by grieving, raging, organizing and healing — and who require space and conversations to do so.
What you do, “Positive Vibes Only,” is shame and exclude people who cannot happy-think their way out of their realities. People who can’t hashtag their way out of systemic oppression, sexual assault, defaulting mortgages, familial displacement, serious mood disorders, terminal illness and the like.
What the world needs now is not positive thinking — what the world needs now is disruptive, revolutionary thinking. And action. And that requires getting sad, mad and organized.
So peace out, “Positive Vibes Only.” It ain’t all good and those of us seeking justice are not going to pretend otherwise.
You’re not welcome.
— Ali O’Reilly