Dreams can be cruel.
My favourite social commentator India Knight wrote a brilliant piece deflating the dream bubbles so many well-meaning parents pump into their children’s heads and so many leaders preach into their followers hearts – “We’re cruel to fill their little heads with dreams of fame”…
“We think we’re being loving when we tell our children they can be anything they dream of being, but it’s not the truth.”
“At no point did I say, “Actually, darling, you can’t really be a squirrel. It’s not going to happen.” Eventually his ambition moved on and he decided he wanted to play for Manchester United. This went on into his teens. At no point did his father or I say, “Um, the football thing — it might not work out; shall we make a Plan B?” We just bought him football boots and ferried him around to games miles away.”
“Now, this is nice: I’m not suggesting I should have stamped all over my son’s dreams instead. But, as the writer Barbara Ehrenreich points out in a book that’s just been published in America, there is such a thing as too heavy a rose tint and there are consequences to the more crazed reaches of optimism. In Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America, the author takes America’s famed sunny outlook to task, tracing its origins “as a marginal 19th century healing technique” to “its enshrinement as a dominant, almost mandatory, cultural attitude”.
“Ehrenreich gives both barrels to, among others, evangelical churches that preach that you have only to ask for something to get it because God wants to “prosper you”; and academia, which includes departments of “positive psychology” and examinations of “the science of happiness”. She suggests the whole fixed-grin, everything-is-going-to-be-fine approach is also behind the current financial crisis, which she sees as fuelled by the refusal even to entertain the possibility of negative outcomes, such as mortgage defaults.”