Prosperity and Self Help

Unfortunately there wasn’t many books in the house I grew up. My parents weren’t exactly readers and there’s nothing wrong with it. But I remember once my dad bought a “prosperity” book from a newspaper stand and brought home, very excited, to my mom: “we should read that and maybe our life will improve”. I’m not sure if they read it, but spoiler: our life didn’t improve.

Years later, however, I was so bored that I decided to read that book myself. Not because I wanted to make money, but because there wasn’t any other book lying around and internet didn’t exist back then. I think that was the first time that I decided to read a book. The cover implied some mystical knowledge would be found there. The sinopse was something like “reveals the steps to prosperity, which is not only financial success, but also health and good relationships”. I was excited, because holding that in my hands felt wrong, almost like I’m having access to forbidden knowledge. I might not recall it well, but I think I read that only at nights completely hidden from my parents.

One of the things that stood out the most in that book for me, is that there was a lot of illustrations and there was a character in which the author took as example person to discuss the topics in the book: a man, short black hair wearing a green t-shirt and his name was “You”. It already felt of very questionable taste, even for a ten year-old boy.

Honestly I don’t remember much of the content. And it’s hard to know how much of internalized stuff I have from that (reverse source amnesia, I guess), especially because I was committed to it. But there was one concept there that really got to me and I’ve been thinking since then, and now I couldn’t be more certain that, not only it’s completely wrong, but it’s also a terrible thing to teach: the concept of “don’t get mad if someone is so extremely rich, there’s still plenty of money available for you; they getting so much money doesn’t mean you’ll have less money”. It was trying to make You think more positive about money, so that would create more harmony and thus making the way towards your pocket easier for the bucks.

You can laugh now. Of course it’s not a secret to anyone that at the moment 1% of the population holds just as much wealth as the other 99%, and by current growth tendency, by 2030, they’ll have two thirds of the global wealth. It’s rather close, but what comes next? Four fifths by 2040? Teaching people to not concern about that because, after all, there’s enough wealth for anyone, is just religious dogma. Even if you argue that it was written by the end of the 90s and only with the Brazilian context in mind, that still doesn’t hold, because in 1971, the hundredth richest already had about a third of the wealth.

Of course I didn’t know there was a huge market of self-help books, that only grows amidst serious crysis times. And I would find out eventually that the author of that book, a medical doctor turned into an alternative pseudoscientific healer, has written over 40 self-help books about “success”, stating in all of them that “success is an individual consequence”. These self-help books only help you get rich if you’re the author.

More recently I read that famous orange-cover book about a certain “““suble art””” and my goodness, I really don’t understand how such texts get to be so popular. Apart from so much non-sense and individualism, it’s contradictory at some parts and just… bad. Sold exceptionally well.

I wish I had access to better books when growing up, but not classics. School was forcing me to read too much of Brazilian literature, stuff that no kid can understand because of the sheer amount of human drama that they’ve simply never felt. But I’m sure I would have loved to read The Hobbit by that age.