Monday, 5 November 2012

I got a book in the mail...

Actually I get lots of books in the mail thats how I buy most of of them but this was one I did not order. In fact the publisher/printer is probably stretching the definition to call it a book, myself I would call it a booklet at most.

It is titled:
"The way to Happiness - A common sense guide to better living".

I was intrigued... I opened it and started reading... 

I did not read the footnotes or the fine print at first, I went right for the meat! 

The first page of the book clearly and quickly outlined some core reasons why you might not be happy right now, it listed instantly the threats to your happiness, before the book to progressed to list some pretty basic self care, none of which would actually help the existential angst it had just implanted in your mind.

The tips had an interesting bend to them however because they did not just tell you how to live your life but included pokes to suggest other people do the same...

The word "survival" was heavily overused but I assumed this was to keep an air of crisis in the mind of the reader.

It was not a religious book, there was no mention of faith, but I got the feeling that it was only an introduction... a "gateway" book if you like intended to mead me onto bigger things.

On page thirteen under, "[Chapter] 4: LOVE AND HELP CHILDREN" the author made some pretty weak claims about "materialistic" ideas and childhood development, before boiling them down to a claim of letting children grow without guidance or care. The author then dismissed this straw man of materialistic ethics as "easily disproved" but gave only one poor non-sequitur argument as proof.

It was in this passage I started to notice key phrases like "help enormously" and "obtain understanding of and agreement to". Part of me was wondering where I had heard this stilted quasi legalese prose before, and what sort of person would engage a child that way?

I read on... more use of "survival"... page 21... "[Chapter] 7: SEEK TO LIVE WITH THE TRUTH"...

Aaaaaand there it was it was, the page started talking about "false data", "true data", "what is true is true for you" and something in the back of my mind screamed L R H.

I scanned the book and there it was, "By L. Ron Hubbard". I had seen this book before when I was very young, but never actually read it, unlike Hubbards sci-fi which I read and did not find as interesting as Asimov or Heinlein.

I read on, not wanting to judge and knowing that ethical statements need not be well written to be fundamentally valid.

The book however does little to lead anyone to happiness, it seemed to focus on a handful of key points:

  1. There is crisis - you must take actions to improve your survival
  2. The world is split into positive and negative actors
  3. Anyone who is not a positive actor is a negative
  4. Negative actors cannot always be saved or changed
  5. Training and guidance is required to improve
  6. Seek to improve yourself and others
  7. Follow and obey authority
  8. Truth is personally relative if you think its true then it is
  9. Make strong commitment and fullfil them
  10. Faith has it's own logic

In short, it's a perfect primer to get people interested in self help and make them want to be part of a system that will help them survive, where they can follow authority, progress up the ranks and be safe from the destructive impact of the negative actors in the world and where, of course, you can believe what you want.

Which is pretty much exactly what it is for, the book is a simple viral marketing tool, put out to hook people and get them to ask the distributer for more information. Of course the book is clear that it is fully non-religious and non-profit, specifically so that it can be distributed in schools and other government supported institutions such as the military without breach of the separation of church and state laws common to both the US and Australia.

Exactly who put this copy in my letter box and why they forgot to stamp the back with the address where I can get more copies to distribute (and of course find more information) will probably remain a mystery.  

It's actually rather shallow and self serving.

The one thing it does not do is the very simple task of suggesting that the reader sit down, take a deep breath and think to themselves of all the happy, nice, good, enjoyable, and valued things and people in their life.

I learnt long ago that the secret to happiness was being able to recognise it when you already had it and find when you dont.

Fear for your survival, the assumption that you must improve yourself in all things and the need to be both following orders and giving them is the secret to happiness as employed by worker ants and honey bees.

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