[Marxism] Fwd: Mind Your Own Business

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 6 12:45:13 MST 2017

The Baffler No. 27  March 2015
Mind Your Own Business
by Barbara Ehrenreich

At about the beginning of this decade, mass-market mindfulness rolled 
out of the Bay Area like a brand new app. Very much like an app, in 
fact, or a whole swarm of apps. Previous self-improvement trends had 
been transmitted via books, inspirational speakers, and CDs; now, 
mindfulness could be carried around on a smartphone. There are hundreds 
of them, these mindfulness apps, bearing names like Smiling Mind and 
Buddhify. A typical example features timed stretches of meditation, as 
brief as one minute, accompanied by soothing voices, soporific music, 
and images of forests and waterfalls.

This is Buddhism sliced up and commodified, and, in case the connection 
to the tech industry is unclear, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist 
blurbed a seminal mindfulness manual by calling it “the instruction 
manual that should come with our iPhones and BlackBerries.” It’s enough 
to make you think that the actual Buddha devoted all his time under the 
Bodhi Tree to product testing. In the mindfulness lexicon, the word 
“enlightenment” doesn’t have a place.

In California, at least, mindfulness and other conveniently accessible 
derivatives of Buddhism flourished well before BlackBerries. I first 
heard the word in 1998 from a wealthy landlady in Berkeley, advising me 
to be “mindful” of the suffocating Martha Stewart-ish decor of the 
apartment I was renting from her, which of course I was doing everything 
possible to un-see. A possible connection between her “mindfulness” and 
Buddhism emerged only when I had to turn to a tenants’ rights group to 
collect my security deposit. She countered with a letter accusing people 
like me—leftists, I suppose, or renters—of oppressing Tibetans and 
disrespecting the Dalai Lama.

During the same stint in the Bay Area, I learned that rich locals liked 
to unwind at Buddhist monasteries in the hills, where, for a few 
thousand dollars, they could spend a weekend doing manual labor for the 
monks. Buddhism, or some adaptation thereof, was becoming a class 
signifier, among a subset of Caucasians anyway, and nowhere was it more 
ostentatious than in Silicon Valley, where star player Steve Jobs had 
been a Buddhist or perhaps a Hindu—he seems not to have made much of a 
distinction—even before it was fashionable for CEOs to claim a spiritual 
life. Mindfulness guru and promoter Soren Gordhamer noticed in 2013 that 
tech leaders from Google, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other major tech 
companies seemed to be “tapped into an inner dimension that guides their 
work.” He called it “wisdom” and named his annual conferences Wisdom 
2.0—helpful shorthand, as it happens, for describing the inner smugness 
of the Bay Area elite.

full: https://thebaffler.com/salvos/mind-your-business

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